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Baby Teeth Matters programme brings oral health care to Cook Islands children

Wednesday 6 March 2024 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in Health, National


Baby Teeth Matters programme brings oral health care to Cook Islands children
Ani Engu and her 1-year-old daughter Maria Paniani at Te Marae Ora oral health screening in Titikaveka by conducted by oral health therapist Ngametua Lazaro Moekapiti. MELINA ETCHES/24030501

Te Marae Ora Ministry of Health’s “Baby Teeth Matters” programme is making its way around the island, aiming to improve the oral health and wellbeing of mothers and young children up to the age of five.

This initiative ultimately contributes to lifelong healthy teeth and a better quality of life for the people of the Cook Islands.

The Cook Islands Child Welfare (CICW) has partnered with TMO dental health specialist Dr Seema Kumar and her team, integrating the programme with their existing Paunu Day, which monitors children’s growth, development, and general wellbeing.

“Baby Teeth Matters” kicked off yesterday at the Titikaveka Clinic alongside a regular Paunu session, with a good turnout of 16 children attending the screenings.

Oral health therapist Ngametua Lazaro Moekapiti said: “We want to prevent tooth decay in our children.”

She highlighted that last year, they discovered tooth decay in children even before they started school.

The programme targets children under five, offering oral health assessments and sharing tips and advice on proper dental care. Each child also receives a special oral health gift pack.

Ani Engu, who brought her one-year-old daughter Maria Paniani to the Titikaveka Clinic, shared her appreciation for the programme’s combined approach.

“I like bringing my baby here to the Paunu to get her health checked, and these dental checks are good too, so we can get our kids checked for both things at the same time. Paunu keeps us updated on our kids’ vaccinations, so this is good for us and our kids in the community,” said Engu.

The next “Baby Teeth Matters” and Paunu sessions will be held tomorrow at the Tupapa Clinic from 9am to 11am.

Parents and guardians are encouraged to bring their children under five to any of these sessions.

The programme will offer oral health screenings next week at various locations: Tepiri (March 12), Matavera (March 14), Tepuka (March 19), Avatiu (March 21), Pokoinu (March 26), and Akaao (March 28).

Furthermore, oral health workshops will be held in Rarotonga’s Vaka districts from 5pm to 6pm next month, scheduled for Vaka Puaikura (April 3), Vaka Te Au O Tonga (April 10 and 17), and Vaka Takitumu (April 24).