Brush, book, bed: Pediatricians encourage healthy bedtime routines

Published 12:12 am Friday, August 10, 2018

Good oral hygiene, reading and regular bedtimes are three simple life skills that pediatricians in 12 Alabama practices are reinforcing through “Brush, Book, Bed” (BBB), a new statewide program of the Alabama Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AL-AAP) and its early literacy arm, Reach Out and Read-Alabama (ROR-AL). 

Made possible by a grant from the DentaQuest Foundation, along with in-kind support from the Alabama Department of Public Health’s Oral Health Division, the program is providing families at well-child visits with materials in hand. These total 6,000 age-appropriate books, stickers, a toothbrush, toothpaste and floss–500 kits to each of the pediatric offices. These items are to remind families of the need to complete the BBB routine each night to achieve optimal oral health for their children.

“This program will pay dividends to the lifelong health of our patients and their families,” said Dr. Grant Allen, a Florence, Ala., pediatrician and BBB physician leader. “Many families, especially those most vulnerable, are not aware of the importance of early oral health, seeing a dentist and reading to their children.”

“Appropriate early oral health prevention, intervention and education are needed to prevent dental decay, which in Alabama is twice that of the national rate, and those children particularly at risk for dental caries are those under 3 years of age,” said State Dental Director Dr. Tommy Johnson. “Because pediatricians and other child health professionals are most likely to encounter new mothers and infants, it is essential that they educate parents on the prevention of dental decay.”

According to a recent article in Parentsmagazine, bedtime stories have long been known to foster parent-child bonds and prepare children for sleep. But lately, researchers have attached other powers to this nighttime routine; parents reading to their child are actually boosting the child’s brain development. According to G. Reid, Lyon of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the most profound benefit is the way reading bedtime stories can rewire children’s brains to quicken their mastery of language.

The evidence-based Reach Out and Read program, administered by 60 pediatric practices and clinics in 30 counties across Alabama, builds on the unique relationship between parents and medical providers to develop critical early reading skills in children, beginning in infancy. During regular visits with the doctor, families grow to understand the powerful role they play in supporting their children’s development, early language and literacy at home.