Swish, spit, protest: The new Mass. tooth brushing law

Posted by Erica Noonan  January 25, 2010 09:04 AM

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(Brushing at school. A bad idea?)

You probably missed this, with all the U.S. Senate election excitement, but a new law quietly went into effect Jan. 1 that may have more of a day-to-day impact on our daily lives than anything Scott Brown does.

That's right -- government mandated toothbrushing.

No not you, silly. The kids.

The state Department of Early Education & Care is requiring all children in day care longer than four hours and/or who eat a meal to have their teeth brushed on-site. (Parents send in the brush, which is to be replaced every few months, or if the kid is out sick.)

Some schools are adopting the regulations for older kids as well, so we'll certainly be seeing more of it in the coming months.

Parents can opt out of this rule, and from what I hear anecdotally, quite a few are angrily doing so.

The weird thing is that these are the sort of moms and dads who buy organic meat and serve the kids edamame, brussels sprouts and quinoa. Their kids are prohibited from watching TV or eating McNuggets, yet the parents object to the one simple thing that could affect their little cherub's dental health the most?

What gives?

The reasons I've heard include a strenuous objection to being forced by the state and/or the idea of a bunch of kids swishing and spitting one after the other as both gross and germ-spreading.

But the state forces us to do a lot of things that protect our kids' health -- car seats and vaccines jump to mind. And in terms of swishing and spitting, most daycares are supervising the process to minimize the mess, the spit and the quantity of toothpaste enthusiastically smeared on the wall.

So what's the problem here? Boston.com Moms Nation, tell us, should your kids be required to brush teeth at school? Have any of you opted out of the new law? Dentists, nurses or hygienists out there, what do you think? Leave a comment, or drop an email to enoonan@globe.com.

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about the author

Erica Noonan is chief of the Globe West bureau. Before joining the Globe in 2000, she worked for the Associated Press in Boston. Raised in Wellesley, she has a master's degree in political communication from Emerson College and a BA in political science from Trinity University in San Antonio. She lives in Natick with two energetic children: Dennis, 6, and Lila, 4.

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