Getting the oral health message to the kids

Senior Oral Health Therapist, Sue Fleming, reports on promoting oral health to the children of Southern Queensland.

Sue has a long background in Queensland Health School Dental Service as an Oral Health Therapist and health promotion has always been a passion. When she started at Granite Belt Dental (GBD) – a small but growing practice in the rural town of Stanthorpe – she approached her boss Dr Michael Letters with the concept of attending schools and day-care groups in the district to promote oral health. The idea was welcomed with open arms and since they started the practice’s involvement in the community has blossomed.

“Taking the message to them in their own environment is a powerful enabler for the children,” explains Sue.

With August being Dental Health Month there was a great opportunity to get the message out into the community. Every year, the GBD staff donate their spare time to gather and create sample bags for the children. This service is provided free for the centres and schools that would like a visit and is solely funded by GBD.

Our sample bags contain oral health message and information for parents, as well as toothbrushes, toothpaste and other dental related items. The bags were stocked with the help of the Colgate “Tool Box” supplied by the DHAA, as well as generous contributions of floss and floss piks by Erskine Dental and Extra gum from Wrigley’s.

The GBD team have visited 34 schools and centres, handed-out just short of a thousand sample bags and travelled 1086km delivering the message of good oral health practices and the importance of visiting the dentist.

“Our health promotion visits consist of targeting the lesson around the age groups visited, but of course Norbit is always the main guest speaker – well, water squirter!,” says Sue.

“The younger groups enjoy the story “Dentists Do Wear Masks” and dress-ups encouraging them to accept dental checks as part of growing up and promoting dental visits from an early age. Prep and lower primary lessons are more focused on maintaining good dental habits, such as regular tooth brushing, good technique and smart food choices. For the middle and upper primary age groups, we focus more heavily on the brushing and flossing, and the understanding of dental disease.

“Outside of August, we are guest speakers at anti-natal classes where the focus is on the development of their child’s teeth, care of the parent’s teeth and ‘suppressing bad habits’ before they start, i.e. putting the baby to bed with a bottle and food choices for the baby/toddler.”

The success of the project is evidenced by the continued support from the community, and the attitude of the children and parents attending out practice with comments such as “Hey, I saw him (Norbit) at school” and “This chair goes up, up, up”. All of this goes to make the child’s first visit so much more comfortable for all involved.

Sue is keen to stress that this project would not be possible with the backing of the practice’s principal dentist, Dr Michael Letters, and his wife Kelly. Both are willing to let their staff go for eight non-clinic days a year to get out into the community and fund this quite expensive venture. Special mention should also go to the many dental assistants and dentists in the practice who are willing to take up the slack and make sample bags for months prior to August.

“I see no end to our annual ‘get abouts’ with Norbit, Ruby, Paul and myself – we can only get better!”

Check out a few of the images of the team and the kids in action