Big smiles for Little Chompers
08 August 2023
To celebrate Dental Health Week, we spoke to Andrea and Lisa from our Little Chompers dental health program, who provide fun and engaging dental education and preventative screening to some of our youngest community members at childcare centres, pre-schools and primary schools.
Dental Therapist, Andrea Riccioni and Dental Assistant, Lisa Clayton have over seven decades of practice experience between them, and both relish the time spent delivering the Little Chompers dental health program to childcare centres and pre-schools.
They are part of a dedicated and compassionate group of Dental Therapists, Oral Health Therapists and Dental Assistants who make up the Little Chompers teams at healthAbility Box Hill and Eltham.
In more recent times, healthAbility has introduced their very successful outreach program into the lower year levels of Catholic primary schools, with the public school system being covered by another program. The service is free and open to all, thanks to funding from Dental Health Services Victoria, and is a perfect way to set young children and their families on a path to oral health success early on.
The Little Chompers program is mainly focussed on 3–5-year-olds, the prime age when children actively and adamantly begin to exert their agency.
Andrea explains, “Dougie and Dorris, our dragon hand puppets, really get the kids excited and engaged, and we show lots of colourful photos of healthy and not everyday foods and images inside the dental rooms. We talk to children about the importance of their teeth, the best ways to care for them and it also introduces them to the idea of visiting the dentist.”
“The feedback we hear most from the centres is that it is a great introduction to the dental experience, and it establishes a positive memory for them within a familiar environment. We incorporate lots of action and participation, asking them questions and getting them involved in the fun.
“I quite often ask them ‘who has been to the dentist before?’ and they raise their hand. I would say only about 25 percent have. I’m sure them remembering me talk about the big chair that moves up and down, and having to wear a bib and glasses under a bright light will make them less anxious when they do need to see a dentist or have a treatment,” adds Andrea.
A very entertaining and educational presentation precedes a dental screening of all children with consent.
“In our oral health examination, we are looking for initial lesions, active decay, or deformed enamel where the teeth are softer and weaker. So, if we identify any teeth with enamel issues, with parental consent, we can treat them with a fluoride varnish paste which helps to remineralise and strengthen those areas.
“We then send report forms home advising the parents or guardians if any treatment is required, or if we have found any area of concern. They are welcome to ring our dental clinics at Eltham or Box Hill to make a follow-up appointment or sometimes they will go to see their private dentist for ongoing check-ups.”
Lisa concludes, “I enjoy being with the children because they are generally always so happy and excited that we have come in. I love listening to them yelling out answers to the questions, showing their knowledge of teeth brushing and healthy foods; it’s surprising to see how much they know and then build on that knowledge. I love their funny comments, you just don’t know what’s going to come out of their little mouths. The other day a little girl was so sweet and waited until last to have her dental screening, saying to a little boy, ‘I will wait with you because I know you are scared’, - just cute, little things like that I love.”
Andrea agrees, saying “I enjoy the interaction with the children the most and that is one of the reasons I’m a dental therapist, because I get to have that meaningful connection with children.”