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Celebrating Raya responsibly: A message for Malaysian young parents

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Not a sane parent in this world is happy to see their child in pain (Sharath Kumar Hari - Unsplash)

By: Dr Noorhidayah Zainal Aalam, Assoc Prof Dr Lily Azura Shoaib

Not a sane parent in this world is happy to see their child in pain. Being a silent disease, dental decay often only manifests as acute pain symptoms when it is too late. A child who cannot sleep at night or eat due to a toothache for days will somehow affect the parent’s daily life. Some parents will only bring their child to the dentist when their child is in pain and demands to have treatment immediately while treating a child is not as easy as it may seem. After all, parents can prevent dental decay by instilling good oral hygiene habits and regular visits to the dentist as soon as the first baby tooth erupts.

The number of six-year-old children without dental decay in Malaysia has been increasing over the last decade. However, a recent study showed that the prevalence of dental decay is still at an alarming rate of 62.1% among Malaysian six-year-old children. This indicates that 6 out of 10 children have at least one cavity in their teeth. High consumption of refined sugar is one of the culprits of this never-ending problem, which may be challenging to curb in the coming festive season.

Coming ahead, a period of immense happiness and indulgence as Muslims celebrating Syawal in Malaysia unfolds, with its array of colours, flavours, and joyous gatherings. Amidst the Hari Raya celebrations, young Malaysian parents face a critical responsibility — safeguarding their children’s dental health. The festive cheer, often accompanied by kuih raya, sweets and treats, underscores a vital message: do not wait until the last minute, as regret will not reverse the damage to your child’s dental health. Parents are unequivocally responsible for instilling and maintaining healthy dental habits in their children from an early age.

Waiting until dental problems arise before acting can lead to unnecessary pain for your child and potentially costly treatments. The festive season is coming soon, and its tendency towards increased consumption of sugary foods and drinks requires parents to be even more vigilant. It’s essential to be proactive in managing your child’s dental hygiene, ensuring tooth brushing at least twice a day, flossing, and moderating their intake of sweets.

The festive month is an excellent opportunity for education and enjoyment in equal measure. Encourage your child to enjoy the festivities while understanding the importance of dental care. Teach them that moderation is vital and that taking care of their teeth is part of enjoying the season to its fullest. By doing so, you’re not only preventing dental issues but also promoting a balanced approach to celebration and health.

Consider the Raya season a time to gift good habits to your children. Integrate dental care into the fabric of your celebration. For instance, after a day of indulging in festive treats, involve your children in a fun family brushing session while watching a favourite family Raya video clips before you wind down for the day. Such activities reinforce good habits and create lasting memories associated with positive dental care.

The duty to protect our children’s dental health extends beyond the confines of the dentist’s clinic. It starts at home, with parents as the primary caregivers. Engaging in preventive dental

care practices, scheduling annual dental check-ups, and fostering an environment where dental health is prioritised are steps every parent can take to ensure their child’s smile remains bright and healthy.

As we celebrate this Aidilfitri, let’s do so with mindfulness towards our children’s dental health. Let this festive season be marked not only by the joy and warmth of celebrations but also by the commitment to safeguarding the health and happiness of our youngest generation. Let’s not wait until it’s too late and face regret. Let us embrace our role as parents, guiding our children towards a future where their smiles are as bright as the festive lights illuminating our homes and hearts.

Remember, a healthy smile is a gift that keeps giving, reflecting our care and love for our children. Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri, Maaf Zahir dan Batin.

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The authors are from the Department of Paediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics, Faculty of Dentistry, Universiti Malaya. They may be reached at noorhidayah.zaalam@um.edu.my and lilyazura@um.edu.my, respectively.

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