As an EPDH, I love working with children!
Last year Oregon Health Authority approached me to work with children in schools for their school sealant program, and I said “Yes!”
After passing the required background checks and taking their training for OHA protocol, I was given equipment, supplies and a list of schools to contact and schedule. I was also responsible for finding my own assistant as the protocol is for 4 handed sealant placement (evidence is that 4 handed sealants last longer than 2 handed sealants).
Once I had logistics taken care of it was time to go to the schools!
What are sealants? They are thin plastic coatings applied to the chewing surfaces of the teeth (typically molars) to protect them from decay. They “seal the tooth” from bacteria. Sealants are easy to apply, no anesthetic is needed. You just have to make sure the tooth is “isolated” (kept dry) while applying the sealant.
One thing was immediately apparent: some schools welcome you with open arms and appreciation, other schools view you as another hurtle and a barrier to their class time and curriculum. I am very respectful of teachers and the school administration. They have hard jobs and we are not there to make it any harder. I try to be as independent as possible and work with the school and teachers to make it as seamless and with as little disruption as possible.
The kids are great! I work with kids from about 6 years old to 8 years old (first and second graders), as most of them have just gotten their first permanent molars (sometimes referred to as 6 year molars). These molars are the teeth most likely to be missing in an adult, due to decay. Sealants are great for protecting those teeth from decay! Wish I had gotten them when I was a kid!! I tell the kids these are their “forever teeth” that are meant to last a lifetime and with sealants, they should.
I’ve learned is that you have to be a bit of a “cheerleader” to the kids. I have pictures and I explain what they are and the process to the kids. Then I walk through the process with them while I apply the sealants. 90-95% of the children are easy and don’t have any problems. Of those, about half are a little nervous and I do everything I can to make them comfortable and let them know they are in control. The other 5%-10% of the kids either have extremely sensitive gag reflex that (even with all my tricks) we can’t seem to override their reflex or they are just too terrified to let me touch them.
My main goal isn’t to place the sealants; that is actually my secondary goal. My first main goal is to give them a great dental experience (even if the experience is only explaining to them). To let them know they have control, to let them know that they will not be hurt by any dental provider.
One thing I’ve noticed is this: they may be quiet and subdued while I explain the process and fine while I place the sealants, but when I see them in the hall a few days later (or sometimes the next YEAR later) they will get all excited, rush up to me and give me a hug and say “I remember YOU!! You are my DENTIST!!” –that’s when I know I’ve really been successful!
My wish for every child is not only great dental health, but a great dental experience that will last them a lifetime. If they can have a good experience as children they will seek good dental health through dental providers the rest of their lives. 🙂
Ann Ossinger is a Registered Dental Hygienist who owns DoorStep DentalHygiene, LLC, a mobile dental hygiene service that provides dental hygiene services to people who would otherwise be unable to go to a regular dental clinic in the Linn-Benton Counties of Oregon. 541-990-0814. Please contact Ann if you have any questions!