McGill Dentistry students launch campaign to teach parents how to best care for their kids’ oral health.
Early childhood cavities affect 42 per cent of Quebec children by the time they enter kindergarten. It’s this shockingly high statistic – the highest in Canada – that spurred a group of four McGill University Dentistry students to develop Bright Smiles, an awareness program that will equip parents with the knowledge and tools necessary to help improve the oral health of their children and prevent cavities.
Working with pediatric dental specialists and Dr. Paul Allison, McGill’s Dean of Dentistry, the students have created a reader-friendly, Q&A-style pamphlet that covers all the oral health basics, including tips on oral hygiene, diet and teething. The bilingual pamphlet will be included in the New Mother Care Kits that goes home with new parents at the McGill University Health Centre-affiliated hospitals and distributed at local daycares.
An informational website www.mcgill.ca/dentistry/clinic/brightsmiles has also been created, including a “how to” video to guide parents into establishing a healthy oral hygiene routine for their kids by teaching them different brushing techniques and various ways of safely positioning a (possibly unco-operative) child during brushing time.
“We were encountering really young kids from all walks of life with dental decay at the clinic,” said Sarah Habib, one of the students who initiated the Bright Smiles project. “In speaking with parents, we realized that they lacked some basic information. Things like when to start brushing, or not putting a child to sleep with a bottle. Parents really want the best for their kids, but sometimes information is missing. We want to empower these parents by getting them the information they need as soon as possible.”
The Bright Smiles project is in line with the emphasis that McGill’s Dentistry program places on dental public health and the importance of preventative oral health care. It is also based on the most recent research in the field of dentistry – something the students are particularly proud of. “We hope that these resources will be a stepping-stone towards parents visiting the dentist early on in their child’s life and that this will lead to continued education and prevention,” Habib added.
Bright Smiles on the Web: http://www.mcgill.ca/dentistry/clinic/brightsmiles
ABOUT EARLY CHILDHOOD CARIES (ECC):
ECC (or cavities) affects 42 per cent of Quebec children by the time they enter kindergarten. ECC encompasses any decayed tooth surface that occurs between birth and the age of 6. Despite the fall in caries rates over the past 30 years, it remains one of the most common diseases of childhood. Dental caries can impact a child’s overall health leading to physical and psychological repercussions. Physical consequences of poor oral health include but are not limited to problems eating, sleeping as well as pain associated with dental infections. Decayed or missing teeth can stigmatize a child and negatively impact their self-image, as well as potentially increase the need for future dental treatment. These treatments including extra orthodontic therapy and dental reconstructive work can put a financial burden on the family budget as well as the health-care system. Children suffering from ECC are often very young and because of their unco-operative nature, often have to be treated with the use of general anesthetic. This drastically increases the risk to the health of the child and the financial stress placed on our health-care system.