The ADA has released a collection of new tools and resources promoting the importance of oral health in infants and young children as part of its Tiny Smiles dental program. Family physicians are invited to use these resources, offered in both English and Spanish, to educate patients and their families about oral health.
The ADA and Scholastic collaborated to create Tiny Smiles, which falls under the ADA’s Give Kids A Smile (GKAS) program. Since 2003, GKAS has provided free oral health services and education to more than 5.5 million underserved children across the nation. The free Tiny Smiles PDF kits include activity sheets for children, tips for parents, and a poster to display in clinics.
The informational pages for parents cover 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 that family practitioners can immediately put into action, including:
- 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 child’s first birthday
- Regularly discussing the oral health needs of children from birth to the age of 5 with parents and caregivers during every visit to help establish healthy habits for a lifetime, including effective gum-cleaning and toothbrushing techniques
- 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.”
Family physicians and other clinicians who see children from birth to the age of 5, or the parents and caregivers of those children, are encouraged to complete an online survey about 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 valued at $100 each as part of the Scholastic Dental Health Survey Sweepstakes. Surveys must be completed and submitted by April 3, 2020.