Dentistry students launch campaign to teach parents how to best care for kids’ teeth
By Allison Flynn
It’s a shockingly high statistic: early childhood cavities affect 42 per cent of Quebec children by the time they start kindergarten. In fact, it’s the highest rate in Canada and it’s what spurred a group of four third-year McGill Dentistry students to develop Bright Smiles, an awareness program that aims to equip parents with the knowledge necessary to improve the oral health of their children.
“At the clinic, we were seeing really young kids from all walks of life with ‘bombed out’ teeth due to extensive tooth decay,” said Sarah Habib, one of the students who initiated the Bright Smiles project. “In speaking with parents, we realized that some lacked basic information. Things like when to start brushing, or knowing not to put a child to sleep with a bottle. Parents really want the best for their kids, but sometimes, key information is missing. We want to empower these parents by getting them the information they need as soon as possible.”
Working in tandem with pediatric dental specialists and Dr. Paul Allison, McGill’s Dean of Dentistry, the students created a reader-friendly, Q&A-style pamphlet that covers all the oral health basics, including tips on subjects like oral hygiene, diet and teething. To ensure parents are armed with the information as early as possible, the students have arranged for the pamphlet to be included in the New Mother Care Kits that go home with all new mothers at McGill University Health Centre-affiliated hospitals.
Bright Smiles also includes an informational website that mirrors what’s in the pamphlet as well as a slick “how to” video to guide parents into establishing a healthy oral hygiene routine for their kids. The video goes through different brushing techniques and various ways of safely positioning a (possibly unco-operative and/or squirmy) child when it’s time to brush.
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.
For more information on the Bright Smiles project, please visit: www.mcgill.ca/dentistry/clinic/brightsmiles