New-look resources to bolster the oral health of young children have been released just in time for Dental Health Week (August 1 – 7).
The Happy Teeth Program – now in its 17th year – is designed to guide and support both oral health staff and early childhood educators in developing and sustaining behaviours that support good oral health in early childhood.
The resources provide a platform for oral health staff to engage with local early childhood centres and support them with oral health promotion, developing nutrition policies or a toothbrushing program.
Jenny Gaggi, Dental Therapist from Darling Downs Hospital and Health Service said prior to the COVID-19 pandemic they conducted regular “in-service” sessions at early childhood centres.
“We’re starting to be able to go back in now. We have three centres close by that we duck into and do a quick talk, check in with what resources they have, and identify who we need to spend more time with – is it the children, the educators or the parents?”
She said the new-look resources had been a hit with children and made it an ideal time to recommence local health promotion activities.
“They are very bright and easy to read and easily understood. Kids can relate to the simple pictures.”
“There are lots of ways to use the resources. For us it’s about having a fun time with the children, so they know that dentists aren’t scary places. We’re putting a face to a name.”
Early childhood educator Emma from Toowoomba’s Funberry Kids said they had received good feedback too.
“We host Health and Hygiene Week and a Dental Health Week where we send little packs home after a visit from the dentist, and we get feedback from parents that the packs have worked.”
“The kids are always interested. The books are a plus and great for group time – we use them throughout the year.
“We’re really happy with everything,” she said.
Jenny said the visits and resources also helped parents to overcome their fear of the dentist.
“We try and provide reassurance but really the key is for everyone in the family to come [to the dentist] regularly - not just go when you have a toothache.”
“If you can get them used to coming along, even to watch someone else get their teeth cleaned, that helps too.
“The main thing is reminding parents that improving their children’s diet isn’t just important for improving their teeth, it benefits their whole body and their growth and development. It’s a holistic approach,” Jenny said.
Jenny is now looking forward to more visits to childcare centres.
“It’s a nice way to break up an ordinary day at work and when children come in [to the clinic] and they are excited to see you and they remember things that you told them, it’s so nice to see.”
Jenny’s top tips for Happy Teeth
- Adapt the resources to the setting – if they supply meals, use the food resources. If parents or carers supply meals, you can send the pamphlets home with meal and snack ideas.
- Get creative – use a toothbrush and paint to practice the action of toothbrushing.
- Role-playing – set up a shop and have the children buy foods and identify if they are a healthy option.
- Singing and music – the Happy Teeth Program has several songs to sing about oral health and brushing your teeth that are short and catchy.
Head to the Happy Teeth Program website for more information and to download the resources.