Smiles 4 Miles is an initiative of Dental Health Services Victoria and is implemented in partnership with South West Healthcare’s South West Dental Service. The aim of the program’s to improve the oral health of preschool aged children and their families by encouraging healthy eating, healthy drinking and good oral hygiene.
The award program recognises early childhood services for implementing healthy eating and oral health policies. As well as, engaging with families about the importance of oral health, and educating children through a variety of fun learning experiences based on the Smiles 4 Miles key messages – Drink well, Eat well and Clean well.
Our SWH South West Dental Service’s Smiles 4 Miles coordinator (and oral health therapist) Jacinta Nguyen says the program plays a key role in introducing healthy eating, drinking and oral hygiene to young families, and improving dental health literacy throughout our region.
In 2020, in the City of Warrnambool, 44 percent of children presented with at least one decayed, missing or filled baby or adult tooth at a public dental service.
‘Smiles 4 Miles is a great way to introduce the importance of having healthy teeth and gums from a young age to reduce decay rates in children, Jacinta says, adding, ‘Evidence shows that early childhood is a crucial stage in learning and development. We want to help children to build healthy habits and set a strong foundation for good oral health now, and later in their lives.’
In 2021, the number of services participating in the Smiles 4 Miles program across the South West region has increased by an impressive 30 percent. In the City of Warrnambool, 21 early childhood services are registered, with the program reaching 1,411 children.
The three steps to healthy teeth and gums are:
DRINK WELL: Tap water is the preferred drink. Limit drinks with added sugar, especially between meals. Choose plain milk over flavoured.
EAT WELL: Eat a variety of nutritious foods each day. Limit foods containing added sugars, particularly between meals.
CLEAN WELL: Brush teeth and along the gum line twice daily. Children should use a low-fluoride toothpaste from 18 months. From six years of age, children can use the same toothpaste as the rest of the family, or a Junior 6+ toothpaste. Have regular dental checkups as advised by your dental practitioner – children should have a dental check by the time they’ve turned two.
All children up to 13 years of age are eligible to access public dental services in Victoria for general dental care and advice. Services are free for families who hold a valid concession card or health care card, and low cost for all other children. To find out more about fees and dental services contact our SWH South West Dental Service on 5564 4250 or visit the Dental Health Services Victoria website.
PHOTO: Mitchell Park Kindergarten’s Scarlette Hammond (from left), Hanna Brown and Izik Brahman