Sheri B. Doniger, DDS.
First, February is National Children's Dental Health Month. Starting as an event in Ohio in 1941, the ADA declared a Dental Health Day in 1949. In 1955, it became a weeklong event before evolving into a monthlong celebration of dental health in 1981. We talk teeth all year, but it is always fun to visit classrooms of youngsters to discuss healthy eating habits and proper brushing techniques.
My daughter teaches kindergarten, and I visit her class every year. Even before she had a class, I talked to various local school groups, bringing my large typodont and brush. And you know what? It's fun! It is fun to give back, and the questions they ask are priceless. Take your camera and send some photos to your local dental society or post them in your office (after receiving clearance from the parents and school). It is a fun afternoon away, and it is worth the time. Have you volunteered yet?
February is also American Heart Month. The first Friday in February is Wear Red Day, to recognize women's heart health, but the entire month is dedicated to heart health awareness. Statistics are still high for cardiovascular incidents in both men and women, and heart disease is still the No. 1 killer of women. As dental practitioners, we should be role models for healthy habits. We have ample opportunity to discuss health needs with our patients, especially after viewing their health history and periodic health updates. We are in a great position to discuss risk factors such as smoking, obesity, and diabetes with our patients, along with proper oral healthcare, and help them stay healthy from head to toe.
Finally, there is Valentine's Day. You scoff? I think not. Any holiday is a teachable moment, even though this one is rather fabricated. Discuss teeth-healthy options rather than candy. Why not a power toothbrush or flosser? How about a gift of whitening?
Chocolate is not bad, in moderation. It does not stick to the teeth. The experience of eating a small piece of good chocolate gives an endorphin boost. Yes, as friends of this column know, I am a fan of chocolate on my reception counter. Why? Because patients are not always thrilled to come in and see us. Some are fearful of the procedure, and others are fearful of the costs of both time and money. Chocolates offer a small reward to the patient upon departing the office. Does everyone partake? No. Do neighboring offices come in to grab a few? Absolutely. Think about the marketing: "My dentist has chocolate on her counter for me to take." Powerful.
So appreciate the many times this month -- and beyond -- that we are able to discuss health with our patients. I am looking forward to my time with the kindergarteners. Every year I get to say the same thing: "What do you do best with your teeth?" And every year they give me all sorts of chewing-related answers. But the best one is the smile. I ask my daughter to give a huge smile, and they all get it. The best thing we can teach them is to keep their teeth healthy for a great smile.
Sheri B. Doniger, DDS, practices clinical dentistry in Lincolnwood, IL. She has served as an educator in several dental and dental hygiene programs, has been a consultant for a major dental benefits company, and has written for several dental publications. Most recently, she was the editor of Woman Dentist Journal and Woman Dentist eJournal. You can reach her at email@example.com.
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