ECHO PARK, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Going to the dentist isn't something any child looks forward to but on Tuesday, some tooth fairies gave kids something to smile about. It's all part of an effort by a local healthcare provider to help parents and young kids develop better hygiene habits.
Experts say good dental care can affect a child's overall health, even their success in school!
Two "certified" winged tooth fairies greeted patients at QueensCare Health in Echo Park. They handed out toothbrushes to patients in the pediatric clinic. The goal is to prevent decay and keep the tooth fairy at bay.
"Dental hygiene is very important to us, and we do screen for it at every well child check," said pediatrician Jessica Khankhanian.
It's a crucial health issue that often gets overlooked. In fact, one troubling stat is that nearly 20 percent of children aged 5 to 19 are not getting their cavities treated.
And often access to care is an issue. In the Latino community, experts say the rate of cavities in kids is six times higher.
"Even the fact that you have to see your dentist every six months is something that a lot of families don't know about," Khankhanian said.
A study done at University of Southern California found that 73 percent of kids in Los Angeles have tooth decay. And it can cause more than just tooth pain, it can affect their academic performance.
The L.A. Unified School District reports tooth pain is the No. 1 reason children miss school.
Khankhanian said what seems like a minor issue can turn into a major health problem.
"If the cavity goes up through the tooth and into the gums and up to your facial area, you can get an infection," Khankhanian explained. "So I'll have kids coming in with an infection or swelling of the face."
Experts say the top reasons adults don't take their kids to the dentist is the cost, lack of access, fear of the dentist or inability to find a convenient location and time.
At QueensCare Health Centers, dentists work alongside pediatricians, and services are provided according to ability to pay.
Busy mom Yolly Lusbo said Tuesday was the first time her 2-year-old son Gabriel saw a dentist.
But it's a good visit because Gabriel is getting used to sitting in the dentist's chair, and Lusbo is getting information on why good habits are so important.
A dentist told her brushing is important because "dental decay is a preventable disease."
Tooth fairies also gave Gabriel and his mom important lessons on how to brush and floss.
Khankhanian's advice? "Just treat your oral health as you would your physical health," she said.
Hopefully it'll be a long time before Gabriel gets another visit from the tooth fairy.
Local clinic brings in tooth fairies to help kids learn cavity-fighting habits
CIRCLE OF HEALTH