Making connections to better children’s oral health
This year’s First Smiles campaign was a huge success for the British Society of Dental Hygiene and Therapy (BSDHT). Participating members were able to spread the word on the need for good oral health among various local schools, with students, teachers and parents all seeming to really appreciate the opportunity to learn more. The feedback has been fantastic – they found the information and tools provided to be invaluable and were able to cover everything from hygiene habits to balanced diets.
Establishing and maintaining relationships with local establishments such as schools and nurseries is becoming an ever more important aspect of the dental hygienist and dental therapist’s role. Engagement with the community is a great way of communicating the importance of oral health to all generations, but it is particularly beneficial when considering the poor state of children’s dental health in areas around the UK. If we can instil knowledge and good habits throughout the population from an early age, we have a much greater chance of turning the current statistics around and laying the foundations for improved oral health in the future.
How to go about making connections
It is fairly easy to make new connections in local communities, but it does require some time and commitment from both individuals and employers. Simply sending a letter or email to your local schools introducing yourself and outlining how you can help them reduce student absences due to dental pain is the perfect place to start. You could offer to visit for a morning or a day, presenting oral health promotion to children of different ages, or focus on one class at a time as part of their health and social care education. Whether you’re interested and able to provide regular sessions or one-offs throughout the year, your skills and knowledge are invaluable to the next generation’s oral health.
In addition, it is just as important to consider engaging with parents and guardians. It is most important in more deprived areas of the UK where child dental health is poorest to give parents all the tools and information they need to support their children’s dental health routines going forward. It will be up to these adults to arrange regular dental check ups for their families, so ensuring they have the details and support they need to do so could go a long way.
Other than schools, you may be able to reach out to local nurseries, youth groups, sports clubs and leisure centres. They may be just as interested in offering their members support with their dental health, particularly when they understand the close associations with general wellbeing.
Get the support you need
As part of our First Smiles campaign this year, we worked with Oral-B and Brushlink, who kindly donated products for our members to use and distribute. Why not approach your own dealers or local supermarkets and shops to see if they would be interested in sponsoring your work in the community? Something as simple and as cheap as a toothbrush can make a huge difference to children’s lives – it’s shocking how many still don’t own their own in the UK!
A rewarding experience
Helping children to better understand the need for good oral hygiene gives them the tools they need to stay healthy as they grow up. This in itself is very rewarding for the professionals involved, but there are other benefits to be enjoyed as well.
Oral health promotion is another string to your bow as a dental hygienist and/or dental therapist. It provides variety, enables you to get out of the practice into new environments and it can encourage greater job satisfaction. It can also set your practice up as a friendly dental care provider for the whole family, promoting its services to more potential patients and demonstrating its commitment to engaging with the local community.
However you decide to do it, making connections within the local community is beneficial for you, your team, your patients and the wider population. By building and strengthening relationships with children, as well as those who care for them and are invested in their futures, we can really start to improve dental health in the UK.
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