A Note to the Kids in Bohol, Philippines
I’m back home in San Francisco thinking of the busy week I spent at your school. Thank you all for the warm welcome into your lives. I miss your giggles!
I'm sorry that I had to remove so many of your teeth. You are all so brave! I'm especially sad about how many permanent molars I had to take out. For the majority of you, your permanent molars started to get cavities even before they fully grew in. By the time they grew out, your permanent teeth had full blown, infectious decay. You were supposed to keep those teeth for the rest of your lives.
While your circumstances haven't been ideal, I'm glad we treated your tooth decay and removed some of the pain. I'm happy for all the new fillings and sealants you have! I hope you're eating more comfortably, smiling uninhibitedly, and that pain is no longer distracting you in class.
I'm thankful for the small steps we accomplished together in the short week. I'm even more hopeful about the changes we can make. Here are three suggestions for you and your elders to keep your teeth healthy:
The vendors outside your school sell only snacks, candies, and sweetened drinks. I likewise love sweets, but try to enjoy them only occasionally. Candy makes for a special treat sometimes, but popsicles and gummy bears shouldn't be the staple of your diet. These sugary after-school snacks feed the bacteria that cause you tooth decay and pain.
Ask your elders to convert the candy stands into fruit stands! Your beautiful island grows so many delicious, natural treats: pineapples, papayas, mangos, coconuts, jackfruit, guavas, and bananas. Philippine fruits are the world's best!
Please also ask your parents to stop seasoning everything with sugar. I love Filipino food, but certain foods like rice, spaghetti, and beef steaks really taste better without sugar!
Tooth decay and gum disease are results of many factors, many of which are environmental and preventable. I'd love for you to continue working on prevention.
Brush and floss your teeth every day to remove cavity-causing food debris and bacterial plaque-causing gum disease. It takes only two minutes or 0.4% of your day to care for your teeth!
Philos Health is building more sinks at your school and continuing to provide free toothbrushes. You'll be able to brush your teeth after meals and snacks at school.
I've also left Cocofloss for you at the dental clinic! Go in and floss there!
Share what you've learned about keeping healthy smiles with your friends and families. You don't need much to care for your smile. You just need knowledge, discipline, and healthy habits.
Take care of your teeth so you can laugh, eat, and sing with confidence when you grow up.
With admiration and hope,
Thanks to Philos Health for building Jagna's dental program and for inviting me to volunteer in the school's clinic. It was an honor to work alongside Dr. Karen and Pete. I look forward to seeing the program grow and to healthier teeth for the people of Jagna.