Dental health starts early

  • Published
  • By Capt. Colt Sicher
  • 412th Operational Medical Squadron

Dental health education is one of the most important factors to maintaining optimal community dental awareness. As dental providers we spend valuable treatment time educating patients on oral hygiene, nutrition, and overall dental maintenance. We understand the importance of giving patients information to continue their dental health between annual exams and dental visits. Unfortunately, we see new Airmen that have never had a dental cleaning or exam. So how can we mitigate this issue? We believe we can solve this issue on a larger scale by educating the future generation of patients.

Children’s dental health is where it all begins. These young minds are impressionable and eager to learn. They may not be receiving this vital information through their civilian providers based on busy schedules and what may seem to be more pertinent issues such as pain or immediate dental needs. Thus, our dental education may be the first exposure to dental health many of these youth receive. We do not need to make them experts in all things dental related, but we must arm them with enough information to be ready to make the right decisions both in oral hygiene and health.

So where do we start? We start by giving them proper procedures. Techniques, instruments, and frequency. We show, tell, do. We get them involved and let them participate. We let them ask questions and make it interactive.

Another vital part to this education is nutrition. Once they have the repertoire to maintain oral hygiene, which alone is not enough, they must be educated to make simple nutritional decisions. What is a good food? What is a bad food? Giving them simple tools (like rinsing their mouths with water post high fructose exposure) could be the vital information that prevents the dreaded “sugar bugs.” 

If we just tell them facts and give them brochures we may not make an impression, but if we give them visuals and walk them through fun games we may just be able to make it stick, long term.

In conclusion, the youth are where we can make lasting effects within our dental community. We cannot do this with more websites, papers, or simply preaching. We must be present and interactive. We must dispense it in a digestible manner that is fun and engaging. When we as providers step into the classroom or gymnasium we are creating lasting impressions that will decrease those encounters with adults who see dental health care as novel.