The American Dental Association (ADA) hosted the very first Children’s Dental Health Day back in 1949. Since then, this annual day of observance has grown to become a month-long event dedicated to improving the oral health and quality of life of children across the nation. As we approach the next National Children’s Dental Health Month (NCDHM) in February 2022, here’s how dental hygienists can prepare to get involved and give back.
Despite general improvements in children’s oral health, childhood dental disease remains prevalent. Dental caries, while largely preventable, is the most common chronic childhood disease, with 13.2% of American children and adolescents (aged 5-19 years) estimated to be living with untreated caries. The prevalence of dental caries is disproportionately higher for children in minority, rural and/or low-income families, who can face increased risk factors and additional barriers to oral health care.
We already know that the earlier we start to promote oral hygiene to our young patients and their caregivers, the easier it is to build positive attitudes and healthy habits that will help protect them from diseases like dental caries. With a sustained focus on this message throughout the month of February, National Children’s Dental Health Month is the perfect opportunity to double down on our awareness, education and prevention efforts.
It also gives you the opportunity to extend your reach beyond your practice doors, proactively sharing your knowledge and resources with families who would otherwise have little access to preventative care. This is especially pertinent during the COVID-19 pandemic, with a recent study finding that pandemic-related issues significantly decreased a child’s likelihood of receiving preventive dental care.
1. Planning and preparation
Every year in the run-up to National Children’s Dental Health Month, the ADA publishes a program planning guide to help you plan a campaign of activities. It includes month-by-month action steps to help you identify key areas of focus, co-ordinate events, and promote your efforts. You can download it here on the NCDHM page and review it with your team to start the ball rolling.
2. Promotional materials
On the main NCDHM page, you’ll also find campaign posters to display in your practice, templates for publicizing your events, and a huge range of fun activity sheets to hand out to the kids. With an archive dating back ten years, available in both English and Spanish, you’re sure to find something to engage every young patient.
3. Event ideas
The ADA planning guide features an extensive list of event ideas to help you promote National Children’s Dental Health Month in your community. Examples include:
Holding coloring, poster or essay contests
Giving presentations at schools, childbirth classes and PTA meetings
Providing dental care packages to new parents
Conducting community screenings at schools, churches and clinics
Sponsoring an exhibit at a library or museum
Featuring campaign messages in your patient communications, voicemail recordings, etc.
List any community contacts you and your team have, look at what outreach activities they already do, and think how you could draw inspiration or even integrate your own activities with theirs.
4. Bright Smiles, Bright Futures resources
Bright Smiles, Bright Futures is Colgate’s world-leading oral health initiative, providing free oral health education in over 80 countries. As part of its commitment to championing healthy smiles, Colgate offers an extensive range of educational resources that you might find helpful this National Children’s Dental Health Month. For use in the dental practice, you can find resources like:
Take-home brochures for parents
Games and activities for young patients
Oral health promotion guides for dental professionals and students
Educational posters and infographics
Certificates and fun photo props
Letter templates for promotion and outreach.
You can also direct parents and caregivers to family-based resources, including:
Age-appropriate guides to caring for children’s teeth and gums.
Educational stories and movies for parents and children to enjoy together.
Songs and games to make brushing fun.
For educators, you can share:
Grade-specific guides for promoting oral health in the classroom.
Engaging stories, games, activities and quizzes.
Classroom posters and wall charts on key oral health topics.
For volunteers, you can share:
Classroom visit guides.
Inspirational stories from other volunteers.
You can see the full range of Bright Smiles, Bright Futures resources here, with the option to filter by role, age group, activity and resource type. Share the link with educators and community healthcare contacts too, and encourage them to share it with parents and colleagues during their own outreach activities.