Julie Deverick: Prioritise Child Safety

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BSDHT’s Julie Deverick; Child Safety Week and First Smiles

The beginning of June is Child Safety Week. While this awareness week is usually associated with keeping children safe from physical harm, that doesn’t mean that we, as dental professionals, can’t encourage them to stay safe in other ways and keep their teeth protected!

Children are high risk when it comes to a number of oral health conditions. There’s been no lack of coverage surrounding the high levels of tooth decay experienced by the younger age group in the UK, and this is something that dental hygienists and dental therapists are well placed to advise about and help prevent.

What about contacting a local school – when they reopen – and hosting a session about diet? This way you can encourage better understanding about how diet affects teeth and teach children about sugars, acidic foods and other concerns which they may not know anything about.

It’s worth delving into some of the lesser known facts here – it’s unlikely that most children will be aware that smoothies are much worse for their teeth than solid fruit, for example. If you make this information memorable, children will tell their parents about it when they get home, reiterating the information they’ve learned and hopefully making a difference.

What about exploring some of the other risks that children may experience regarding their teeth? Did you know that dental trauma incidents occur far more frequently in children, and in fact, make up 5% of the total injuries incurred by people under the age of 18? [1] If you think about it this makes sense – childhood games involve a lot of running and potential for trips and collisions.

Children are also more likely to regularly play ball sports and other physical activities as part of break times or physical education lessons than those who have left schooling for higher education/work. All of these activities bring risks of dental injuries with them – so how about talking to children about the importance of mouthguards during sport or what to do if they do hurt their teeth after a fall?

This advice is invaluable and will hopefully encourage these individuals to play with more care and to exercise good protective habits when engaging in potentially dangerous activities.

If you want to do it differently, what about inviting a small group of children to your practice with their parents? This way you can make the information more memorable by showing them some of the equipment in your practice and explaining what your job role is – it won’t necessarily be suitable for bigger groups, but it’s a good way to get your points across.

A great opportunity to impart this wisdom is by taking part in the BSDHT’s First Smiles initiative. This event encourages you to host sessions like these in local schools and children’s clubs. Supported by Oral-B, when you sign up you will receive useful educational resources including free goody bags with tooth-brushing charts, stickers and other fun items that children can take home afterwards.

Taking place around the beginning of June, you can sign up to take part in First Smiles and find out more about the initiative here: http://www.bsdht.org.uk/firstsmiles Whatever topics you decide to cover when you talk to children, it’s a good opportunity to help these individuals to understand that looking after their oral health is part of their safety too.

Julie is the President of the BSDHT. For more information, visit www.bsdht.org.uk 

1] International Association of Dental Traumatology. Dental Trauma Guidelines. Link: https://www.iadt-dentaltrauma.org/1-9%20%20iadt%20guidelines%20combined%20-%20lr%20-%2011-5-2013.pdf [Last accessed March 20].

Photo by Francesca Runza on Unsplash