February is National Children’s Dental Health Month. I, a dental hygienist of 10+ years with Creating Smiles Dental, have done many dental health presentations. I have done them for my own older kids and since most of their classmates are the same from year to year, I took a year off this past fall for the Great American Teach In and talked about other things. Well guess what, my preschooler’s class had not heard my presentation yet, so I asked if I could present to the class. The teachers were thrilled and asked if I could talk to the other VPK class at the school as well and of course I agreed.
Instead of going in scrubs like usual, I wore normal mom clothes complete with my 1 year old as an accessory. I brought in a big bag and talked as I pulled various things out. I first pulled out my stethoscope. I told them how I check every patient’s blood pressure because at my dental office, Creating Smiles Dental, we check more than just teeth. We first make sure the patients are comfortable, and once we are friends, we check to see if they are healthy in general and answer questions before taking their x-rays and looking at their teeth. There was a birthday boy in the class that day, so I let him put on the blood pressure cuff and stethoscope as well as my mask with the face shield attached for a photo. Getting kids acquainted with medical and dental equipment in familiar settings such as their own classrooms is helpful. Letting them know what to expect is another helpful thing for these young children so their dental visits will be familiar, educational, and successful.
I had the kids keep raising the peace sign high in the sky when I asked them to answer questions, all of which are answered with the number two. At least how many times should you brush your teeth each day? “TWO!” How many times should you let me or somebody at your dental office clean your teeth each year? “Two!” How many minutes should you spend brushing your teeth each time you and your parents do it for you? “TWO!” We also talked about how to brush with my huge silly toothbrush, flossing, eating healthy foods, and answered some cute questions.
To encourage reading and to get calm again, we read a story about going to the dentist. It is a huge paperback book so all of the kids can see. Since the kids love story time and having what they call “Mystery Readers” come in, I read another book about the tooth fairy liking pretty clean healthy teeth. We closed with letting the kids each see and feel the difference between my two big teeth. One is made out of shiny smooth paper with sparkles and a happy face, indicating that happy teeth are squeaky clean. The other is made with white felt, has brown dirty spots, and is sad. Teeth are not happy when they are covered with fuzzy plaque. They can be happy when we clean them though!
I left vanilla lip balms, donated by my dental office, Creating Smiles Dental, so the teachers could put them in each of the kids’ bags. The kids were excited about them. They were intently listening and raising their hands and asking good questions. I was happy to hear that most of these 4 and 5 year olds had already been to a dentist and liked going. For kids who have not had a chance to go to the dentist for their first time, the annual Give Kids A Smile day is coming up on February 27th in various locations in Pinellas County, in the name of National Children’s Dental Health month. As a student then for many years after, I have volunteered for this event. Now that my kids have activities of their own on this day, I am not able to volunteer each year, but it is still a wonderful service, providing free dental exams, cleanings, sealants, fluoride varnish treatments, as well as referring back for treatment as needed.