Michelle Breier/Union Tribune
San Marcos — The picture book is simple and bright, but it carries an important message: Brush your teeth after you eat.
February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, and longtime dental hygienist Linda Valderrama’s new book, “Brush Barry Brush,” has arrived to help get the word out on the importance of good dental health habits.
After more than 25 years of dispensing her advice on brushing to patients in dental offices, Valderrama decided it was time to write it down and gear it specifically to children.
“I had this idea in my head for many years,” she said of the story in which children brush every time they eat, except for Barry, whose teeth turn blue after eating blueberries.
“This is a perfect bonding book. It’s another chance to bond with your child and teach them something really valuable.”
Valderrama, who lives in the San Elijo Hills community of San Marcos and has two grown children, partnered with Rancho Bernardo illustrator Sudi Memarzadeh, who produced 32 paintings for the illustrations.
With financial support from a friend, Valderrama self-published the book with an initial printing — by Angel Printing in Oceanside — of 5,000 copies.
Valderrama is passionate when it comes to educating children and families about the importance of good dental health.
“Dental decay is the most prevalent but preventable of chronic childhood diseases,” she said. “People just don’t think of it as a disease.”
According to the National Institutes of Health, the rate of decay in the baby teeth of children ages 2 to 11 started to rise in the mid-1990s after declining for more than two decades. Now, 42 percent of children 2 to 11 have had cavities in their baby teeth.
Dr. Ruchi Nijjar-Sahota, a family dentist in Fremont in the Bay Area, agrees with Valderrama’s assertion that brushing more often is better.
“Brushing morning and night is mandatory,” said Nijjar-Sahota, who serves as a spokeswoman for the American Dental Association. “It’s great if (children) brush when (they) get home from school. That’s what I recommend. The more we can do to disrupt the bacteria in our mouth is helpful, whether by swishing or brushing.”
Nijjar-Sahota said a child’s cavity affects more than just a tooth.
“It keeps them from paying attention in school, from smiling and self-worth …,” she said.
Valderrama hopes to get those messages out to children through her book and by joining with dental supply companies and schools.
“We want to have a positive effect on their whole life,” Valderrama said. “Their mouth is the portal to their whole body.”
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