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“What do we use our teeth for?” asked Angela Gonzales, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico (BCBSNM) community health educator. Her audience, a group of children at the South Valley Library in Albuquerque, shared plenty of ideas. Eating, talking, smiling – the kids agreed that all of these activities involve their teeth. And when Blue Bear walked into the room, the kids demonstrated how they use their teeth to smile.
As BCBSNM’s health and wellness ambassador, Blue Bear’s job is to help promote healthy activities throughout New Mexico, and teaching good oral hygiene is part of Blue Bear’s mission. The Blue Bear dental health program offered by BCBSNM provides a fun activity for kids and their parents while educating children about the importance of taking care of their teeth. As part of the program, children are invited to use Blue Bear’s bear-sized toothbrush and teeth model to show him the correct way to brush and floss.
“I think it’s really important that we get involved in children’s health, and oral health is such a big part of overall health,” Gonzales said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tooth decay is one of the most widespread chronic diseases for children in the United States. The New Mexico Office of Oral Health estimates that 64 percent of New Mexico’s third-graders experience tooth decay. Dental disease, including cavities and gingivitis, may cause complications such as toothache, pain, infection, and difficulty chewing, among other issues. One study reported that a lack of good oral health is associated with more missed school days and lower grades.
To help address these issues, Blue Bear – with a little help from his BCBSNM family – encourages the development of lifelong healthy habits, including brushing and flossing, eating healthy foods and limiting sugar intake. In 2018, Blue Bear also visited other locations throughout the Albuquerque metropolitan area, and he plans to teach many more children in New Mexico about healthy smiles.
Daisy Montaño attended the presentation at the South Valley Library with her 3-year-old daughter Adelia. “She loves Blue Bear,” Montaño said. “I think she’ll remember this every time she brushes her teeth, which is good. It’ll encourage her to brush her teeth and keep them clean.”
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