In a changing world, where sugar and citric acid are almost inescapable for even the most health conscious, never before has education been more important for the next generation.
That’s why on Wednesday 20th June 2018, along with dentist Cindy Lan and dental therapist Victoria Wilson, I went to Bow Lane Pre-School in South London to educate young children about good oral health habits to mark this year’s First Smiles campaign.
Using goody bags with Brush Baby toothbrushes, stickers, games and challenges, we gave the children the low-down on how the ‘consumption culture’ of today’s world – in which they will one day be the movers and shakers – significantly affects the condition of their teeth.
Our workshop housed 30 to 40 children between the ages of two and four who were split into groups of 10 to work in teams and take on a number of games.
Tips on engagement
We started by introducing ourselves and explained that we were here to talk to them about their teeth and how to look after them. We invited the children to tell us what they needed to clean their teeth with and for how long. We also showed them images of good and rotten teeth and explained why brushing was important.
They knew they needed a toothbrush and to brush for 2 minutes. To test them, we gave the children laminated pictures of a big tooth with marker pen dots to mimic plaque and dental bugs. The children were then tasked with removing them using their newly taught brushing skills, with more toothbrushes donated by Oral B.
After they learnt the difference between good and rotten teeth, we taught them about foods that contribute to tooth decay. The children were presented with common food items they might find in their fridge and were asked to shout for foods that are nice to your teeth and boo those ones that aren’t.
Without a doubt this was the best form of feedback. The look and noise of excitement and engagement that came bellowing from their little mouths was great to see. It’s not the easiest of subjects to engage children with – that’s why we see so much decay – but our sole aim was to educate through fun, and on the evidence of what we saw, we’d been pretty successful!
The final task was giving the tooth fairy a helping hand. Kids love the tooth fairy and can relate to it positively. We asked them to identify good and bad teeth with which to build her a castle. Using pictures, each child had to stick a sticker of a strong white tooth, to build the strongest of castles fitting for the goddess of oral hygiene.
First Smiles is a campaign run by the British Society of Dental Hygiene and Therapy and aims to help dental teams engage with their local communities and raise awareness of the importance of oral health among the younger generation.
First Smiles aims to:
Build essential relationships between nurseries, schools and their local dental practices
Educate children and those who care for them about the fundamental aspects of good dental health
Improve the oral hygiene habits of children across the UK
Make children feel more comfortable about visiting a dental practice
Integrate oral hygiene within health education in schools
Tackle the worrying rise in tooth decay and extractions among children in the UK*
What it means to me
Nothing beats seeing children smile. The majority of my work is spent treating adults, so to be able to engage children of such a young age was truly amazing. To see them so enthusiastic and keen to learn was rewarding. I would like to think we gave them enough knowledge and equipped them with the skills to help them look after their teeth for the rest of their lives.
*British Society of Dental Hygiene and Therapy. First Smiles. Available online at: http://www.bsdht.org.uk/firstsmiles (Accessed July 2018).