The American Dental Association has released a collection of new tools and resources (www.scholastic.com) promoting the importance of oral health in infants and young children as part of its Tiny Smiles dental program (www.adafoundation.org). Family physicians are invited to use these resources -- which are offered in both English (www.scholastic.com) and Spanish (www.scholastic.com) -- to educate patients and their families about oral health.
The ADA and Scholastic collaborated to create Tiny Smiles, which falls under the umbrella of the ADA's Give Kids a Smile program, one of the world's largest oral health charitable initiatives.
Launched nationally in 2003, GKAS is an access-to-care endeavor designed to encourage parents, health care professionals and policymakers to address the year-round need for oral health care and education for all children.
The free Tiny Smiles PDF kits include activity sheets for children, tips to share with parents and a mini-poster to display in clinics.
The informational pages for parents cover topics such as healthy dental habits for young children (including what oral care is important at different ages), what to expect during an oral care visit, what things are good and bad for teeth, what to expect during infants' teeth development, and how to prevent cavities.
Program resources aimed at physicians and other medical professionals offer tips FPs can immediately put into action, such as:
--talking with expectant mothers about the importance of seeing a dentist while pregnant and keeping up with their oral hygiene routine to reduce the chance that they will pass on cavity-causing bacteria to their baby;
--encouraging parents to take their children to the dentist for a first checkup after the first tooth appears or by the time the child turns 1;
--regularly discussing the oral health needs of children between birth and age 5 with parents and caregivers during every visit to help establish healthy habits for a lifetime, including effective gum-cleaning and toothbrushing techniques; and
--examining children's teeth during routine appointments and providing preventive oral health services.
The resources for physicians also include a "Dear Medical Professional" message that states: "You educate patients on health, wellness and prevention on a daily basis. A vital part of patient education is raising awareness about the connection between oral health and overall health."
For example, "Many parents and caregivers are surprised to learn that baby teeth do matter and are at risk for decay as soon as they first appear," the message continues.
"Thank you for your efforts in promoting optimal oral health and protecting those tiny smiles."
Family physicians and other clinicians who see children from birth to age 5 (or the parents/caregivers of those children) are encouraged to complete an online survey (www.surveymonkey.com) on dental health for young children to receive a free Tiny Smiles kit and to be registered for a chance to win one of 50 sets of Scholastic books -- a $100 value -- as part of the Scholastic Dental Health Survey Sweepstakes.
Surveys must be completed and submitted no later than Nov. 22 to be eligible. Download the official sweepstakes rules (www.scholastic.com).