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KOROR, Palau (September 13, 2002 - Palau Horizon/PINA Nius Online)---Dental decay in children is becoming a significant health problem in Palau, Dr. Keith Larson, Chief of the Division of Oral Health, said in a recent report to President Tommy Remengesau, Jr.

Dr. Larson said: "Dental decay in children, often as young as two years old, can lead to hospitalization, serious infections, nutritional problems, chronic pain, difficulty of chewing and learning."

Breastfeeding is strongly encouraged not only for the overall health of infants, but also to improve dental health, he said.

Bottle-feeding with formulas or other sweet juices or drinks can quickly damage teeth and cause infection.

"And of course, too much soda, candy and sticky foods are a sure path to decay," Dr. Larson said.

Dr. Larson said the Division of Oral Health has started to address the problem through an educational awareness program given to all pregnant women.

Mothers are also encouraged to improve their own dental health.

During immunization visits, preventive services such as fluoride varnish application, nutritional counseling and oral hygiene instruction are provided to mothers and caregivers.

Dr. Larson said it is recommended to regularly clean a baby’s mouth with a soft towel or gauze and start brushing as soon as teeth start to grow.

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