Let’s Talk Teeth

I have seen rotting teeth on children everywhere: Indonesia, Honduras, and yes, even Taiwan. You would think that since I currently work at a posh private school, with students from extremely wealthy families, that all of their teeth would be sparkling white. But the truth is, sugar does not discriminate. Even on visits home to the States, I see children from all backgrounds with rotting teeth.

So what’s the deal?

Truth: No dentist can repair all of the damage from a poor diet (which sadly seems to be the norm these days) loaded with sugar and high fructose corn syrup.

So why is it still happening all over the world?

Based on my experience in Honduras, I gathered that the health epidemic is a result of ignorance due to poverty and advertising. Coca-Cola funds most of the schools in Honduras, and they also have a strong presence in the churches, political campaigns, etc. It is no wonder most of the kids at my school had brown and black teeth. The students’ (and their parents’) veins pumped Coca-Cola. On one occasion, a doctor even prescribed my roommate Coca-Cola everyday to fight off her low-blood sugar. I did my best to educate the children about a healthy diet and healthy habits, but it really should have been the parents in the classroom receiving the lecture. The poor kids didn’t have a fighting chance.

In Indonesia, it was the same tune, although my students came from wealthier families. The “Western Diet” of McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Dunkin Donuts and Pizza Hut is a status symbol for those who can afford it. I also believe that the newly emerged middle class in Indonesia appeared so fast, that healthy habits have yet to catch up with them. As always, I did my best to share information concerning nutrition and hygiene, and who knows, maybe I even managed to plant some seeds.

In Taiwan, neither ignorance nor poverty is to blame in the case of my students. I know for a fact they are going to the dentist and brushing their teeth. But this means nothing when most of them have diets filled with copious amounts of sugar from sodas, candies, and white bread. Tragically, at least 1/3 of my students are being fed crap, and it’s nothing less than child abuse.

So that’s why I have taken it upon myself to have a “Healthy Habits” theme this month in the classroom. Included in the unit are health experiments, which I have displayed in the lobby for the parents to see because let’s be honest, they are really the ones I desire to reach. My personal favorite was our “Rethink Your Drink” activity, where I weighed out the amount of sugar in different drinks, and displayed the results for all to see. We also did a similar “Rethink Your Snack” activity.

Today, my students now know the difference between natural sugars and refined sugars, and know that “brown” bread is healthier than “white” bread. They know about “Rainbow Foods”, and the importance of eating plenty of fruits and vegetables. I  found out the other day that one of my students even chastised her mother for drinking Coca-Cola.

Ladies and gents, it’s moments like this that make my job rewarding.


  1. love what you’re doing! taiwan needs more teachers like you!

  2. Poor little teeth, I hated seeing that in Indonesia. I like the “Healthy Habits” lesson 🙂

  3. chistanote says:

    go0d Idea

  4. We talked about this before and the only thing we could come up with is that there might be Chinese belief that it’s better to let baby teeth simply rot and fall out than to have healthy baby teeth. At least that was the only reason we could come up with for why some 1st graders only had blackened nubs left. The sugar doesn’t help either and perhaps the fluoride in American water does something for us.

    I get shivers though everytime I see a child with blackened nubs. Ick.

    • Yes, the fluoride is definitely a HUGE factor. I didn’t even think about that while writing this. Interesting about the Chinese belief though. I will have to ask around about that one.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Those kids r straight adorable miss u!!! NO SUGAR!!!!

  6. Anonymous says:

    Thank you Jenna for your devotion to educating children about nutrition. This type of education is needed all over the world and even more so in America.

    • I appreciate the comment, thanks 🙂 I do think that educating adults and children about nutrition is needed equally in all parts of the world. One step at a time….

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