BSDHT First Smiles “Taking the right oral health message to children”
The British Society of Dental Hygiene and Therapy (BSDHT) is one of many organisations working hard to raise awareness of the importance of good oral health among the public. Its annual First Smiles campaign is designed to do just this, focusing especially on children. This year members got involved by engaging with their local schools and nurseries and delivering oral health promotion to students, teachers and parents.
Among the many projects organised, dental hygienist and therapist Annette Matthews recently helped to facilitate ‘Toothy Tuesday’ with Eldon Primary School in London. The day comprised of various informative and interactive activities with each year class, educating the children and the adults who care for them about dental hygiene.
Support from Oral B and Brushlink
“The school contacted BSDHT because they were concerned about the number of student absences they were seeing as a result of tooth decay and the need for extractions,” said Annette (below). “It struck me just how important it was to get the right messages out to these children – especially as we had the opportunity to reach more than 1,200 kids in one go.
“I was delighted to visit and deliver oral health promotion at Eldon, along with a few colleagues. We tailored our sessions according to the age of each class, adding more information for the older children but always trying to make it fun and interesting. We covered basic hygiene principles like brushing twice daily and for two minutes each time. I was pleasantly surprised that the older children had good knowledge in this area, so for them we also discussed diet, reduction of sugar intake frequency and the importance of not rinsing after tooth brushing.
“It was great to have the support of Oral-B and Brushlink, as we were able to give all the kids a tooth brush and I was able to discuss the Brushlink device with some of the classes and parents. I was really pleased that some of the parents joined the sessions too, as it is up to them to support their children going forwards and help them look after their teeth and gums.
“The commitment of the school to the event was fantastic. The Assistant Headteacher Caroline was very enthusiastic about helping her students improve their dental health. As there were language barriers at times due to a high population of Turkish families in the area, the school even provided an interpreter to ensure everyone fully understood the information provided. We also discussed the possibility of keeping tooth brushes at the school and implementing a morning or afternoon brushing session to ensure the children are maintaining routines even if they don’t have the resources or time at home.
“At the end of each session, I asked every child to go home and tell three people what they had learned. If they too are spreading the message and more people are aware of the need for dental hygiene, then together we can have a greater impact on what have become appalling child oral health statistics in the UK.”
Caroline Scott, Assistant Headteacher at Eldon Primary School, enthused: “I want to say an enormous thank-you to everyone who participated in our ‘Toothy Tuesday’, because without your amazing enthusiasm, dedication, expertise, generosity, passion and sheer star-quality, this whole event would never have got off the ground. I am incredibly grateful. Thank you for all you have contributed to tackling dental absenteeism in our school.”
The students were equally as pleased with the day. Radwan, a student in Year 6, said: “When Annette started talking about sticky fissures it made me laugh because I thought she said ‘fishes’ and I couldn’t work out what she was saying, but then I realized what she meant! I learnt a lot – especially about not spitting-out and how long two minutes really is.”
Going forward, the BSDHT is keen to maintain the ethos of the First Smiles campaign and encourage all dental hygienists and dental therapists to engage with their local schools and nurseries.
Annette concluded: “I think the key message from this year’s First Smiles event is to ensure that local schools are aware of the facilities and support dental hygienists and dental therapists, and the society can offer when it comes to their students’ oral health.
“Many professionals are willing to give up their time to help raise awareness of dental hygiene and we need to reach out to schools to let them know.”