The school year has been over for a while. Families are traveling to exotic places and to our beautiful State Parks enjoying the simple pleasures of outdoors living. As I myself enjoy the lazy days of summer, I want to take this time to reflect on this past school year, what we have accomplished at TeethFirst with Supervised Flossing and Brushing in Park City, and offer some suggestions on steps schools can take in helping children achieve and maintain good oral health.
In February, TeethFirst visited Grade 2 classrooms in McPolin Elementary and Parley’s Park Elementary Schools to deliver a workshop that covered:
- What dentists see and do on a daily basis
- An interactive presentation on oral health that contained a secret code for a healthy mouth
- A challenge in ranking various beverages from least to most amount of sugar followed by a discussion on healthy snack choices
- Correct flossing and brushing under supervision
- A quiz on the secret code and its meaning
These workshops were made possible by a Grant from the Park City Education Foundation and the generous gift of goods and time from Dr J. Brandon Bailey, a pediatric dentist in Park City.
Observations show that there is a need for more oral health classes:
- All children were able to deliver the code accurately and with confidence
- Almost all children could explain the meaning of the first 2 digits of the secret code: how many times per day one should brush and for how long
- About half of the children could explain the meaning of the 3rd digit in the secret code: how often one should floss
- Few children could explain the meaning of the last digit in the secret code: how long one should wait / give teeth a break between snacks and meals
- Although they understood the principle, none of the children were able to rank the beverages correctly from least to most sugar
- The majority of children demonstrated a correct brushing technique after the demonstration
- Less than ⅓ of the children could demonstrate the correct use of the dental floss
- During subsequent unrelated visits to the school, several students approached me to tell me that they were brushing for 2 minutes (using their timer) and flossing every day since the workshop. Parents approached me in the supermarket to thank her for having made their job at home easier with bedtime brushing
- All teachers present during the workshop stated that they had learned something they didn’t know about oral health
Supervised Flossing and Brushing for Kindergartners at McPolin Elementary
Thanks to a Grant from the Park City Ed Foundation and the generosity of McPolin Elementary PTO, TeethFirst was able to provide 52 Kindergartners with the benefits of a supervised flossing and brushing program after lunch every school day from February 23rd to June 3rd. A big thank you also to Ms Denine Therrien and Genevieve Mullins for their unwavering support and dedication to this program.
Supervised Brushing at St Mary’s Church for Pre-Schoolers
Sister Mary Ann Pajakowski and Miriam Garcia met with TeethFirst in March and launched a supervised brushing program for all the pre-schoolers at St Mary’s Church early April. The program ran to the end of the school year. Thank you to the Holy Cross Ministry for funding all the drying racks and covers for this program. And thanks to Shanna Price’s leadership, all premium quality toothbrushes (OralB Stages 2 and 3) and toothpaste for this program were donated by Proctor and Gamble.
More Observations from our TeethFirst Tooth Fairy:
- Kindergarten students at McPolin Elementary School who have the benefit of daily supervised flossing and brushing in the classroom demonstrate as good as or even better flossing and brushing than the Grade 2 students who are 2 years older. Thank you to the Ed Foundation for agreeing to the transfer of the funds to this program
- Flossing needs better integration into oral health: brushing only cleans 60% of the teeth. Flossing is an essential component to good oral health
- Flossing requires more practice
- There is a great need to correlate oral health to more than brushing twice over day or staying away from candies
- Nutrition and oral health are intimately linked and there is a need for integrating oral health education into the elementary school system as there are innumerable and widely held misconception about nutrition that adversely affect oral health
- Surveys have shown that more than 70% of parents within the Park City School District have a hard time getting their kids to brush at bedtime and / or before school.
What School Can Do to Promote Oral Health
ORAL HYGIENE BELONGS IN THE COMMUNITY JUST LIKE HAND HYGIENE
I propose a District Wide program of daily oral health practices in schools. Very simple practices of 5 minutes each day under the supervision of elementary and pre-school classroom teachers. We have successfully tested such programs in 4 Kindergarten classrooms in 2015 and 2016 at McPolin Elementary and at St Mary’s church with pre-schoolers in the spring of 2016.
93% of the teachers said they will support this movement and the parents need it. The numbers speak for themselves: 73% of parents have a hard time getting their children to brush their teeth at bedtime, before school or both. Half of the parents say they’re willing to pay to support such a program and 91%, almost all of them, said they would participate if the program included a home portion. We know from the National Supervised Tooth Brushing Program in Scotland that programs like this make a BIG difference. In Scotland, over decades and with close to 100,000 children, they have consistently and significantly reduced the incidence of dental caries in every school, every community and across the whole country simply by introducing a supervised tooth brushing programs in schools.
Together we can break the cycle of dental diseases.