Dental hygiene and brushing teeth are a critical part of our health. However, it is interesting to observe the extent of importance we seem to attribute to it across different cultures.
Growing up in India, we are taught to brush our teeth early in the morning before starting our day. Neem stem in villages, ayurvedic toothpowder or toothpaste, typical toothpastes and toothbrushes advertised by dentists are the most common ones. Concept of mouthwash was more for oil pooling, where you hold a few ounces of vegetable oil in your mouth and swoosh it in your mouth for 15-20 minutes and spit it out. Apparently, this strengthens the gums and our digestive system. Flossing was an alien concept. Gargling after meals was encouraged, not brushing.
Dentists in US drive home the concept of brushing twice a day, using a mouthwash and floss every time we brush. Orthodontists over here make it a point to ensure children with braces brush four times a day and floss. Different types of toothbrushes are available for children with braces. Flavors of mouthwash, toothpaste addressing sensitive teeth, teeth whitening, removing cavities flood the stores. Trip to a dentist is quite expensive, forcing dental hygiene.
While these are normal behavior that I have been exposed to, was shocked to see the way South East Asian countries focus on teaching children the importance of brushing teeth and dental hygiene. Even schools promote the same, wherein students are asked to take time to brush after a lunch and snacks or drinks. Formative years focus on dental hygiene and build it into their daily habits. School forms a critical part in the same.
From a young age, Koreans are taught to brush their teeth at least three times a day. They were advised to brush their teeth after every meal for 3 minutes.
I started looking around
NHS UK – Research on need for schools to teach brushing routine
NIH research on effect of 21-day brushing on knowledge, behavior and oral dental care of children
Japan article on importance of brushing during school times
UNICEF focus on brushing teeth in schools
It is truly interesting to see how the world research organizations are treating this with a lot of seriousness and figuring out ways to build the etiquette and hygiene back into schools. Habits are hard to form, and what other forum can inculcate these habits that stand to benefit for the entire life of a child.
I realize – It is time to review and refine daily habits!
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