This Quarter’s Theme: Babies and A Dental Home

Tooth Talk Tips to Encourage Parents to Take Babies to the Dentist

Did you know…

68% of parents say receiving dental benefits is why they enroll their children in Medicaid and CHIP?

You’re making a difference! A 2007 UNC-Chapel Hill study revealed that NC was one of just three states in the nation with 20% or more Medicaid-enrolled children under the age of 3 visiting a dentist.

Early dental visits are important because they can head off cavities and other tooth health problems that can cause pain, poor quality of life, compromised growth and development and, of course, added expense.

The American Dental Association, American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and American Academy of Pediatricians all recommend a visit to the dentist a child’s first birthday, yet few children enrolled in Medicaid do.

So, while North Carolina is a leader in this effort, how can you improve those numbers and connect with parents about the importance of dental visits? Here are some great ways to start the conversation with the parents in your program.

1. Ask open-ended questions:

“What’s your concern about going to the dentist?”

2. Reflect back to the parent what you’re hearing in a way that inspires behavior change:

“I see. Getting Michael to the dentist means you have to fit it in to your already busy schedule.”

3. Follow up on the reflections by asking permission to share some tips for fitting the dentist visit in.

“May I share a few ideas that may make it easier for you?

4. Last, summarize what you and the parent have agreed to do:

“Great! You’ll schedule it on your next day off.”

To review the study, click here.


This Quarter’s Theme: Babies and A Dental Home

New Tooth Talk Video Helps You Explain Benefits of Fluoride Varnish to Parents

Did you know…

Fluoride varnish, a liquid painted on teeth to prevent cavities, is a safe, fast and effective way to protect babies’ teeth?

Did you know…

Parents may be able to take babies to the doctor’s office for this procedure, making it easy for them to keep babies’ smiles healthy?

Fluoride has been an important part of preventing cavities and preserving healthy smiles for 70 years. According to the CDC, nearly 70% of Americans drink beneficial fluoridated water from community water systems. Fluoride varnish has been a successful dental care strategy for small children since 1999.

Advise parents to take children to a doctor who is including a tooth check-up as part of a well-baby visit, preferably starting with the appearance of the first tooth. In addition to establishing a medical home, encourage parents to take kids to the dentist by age 1; by age 3 at the latest.

For more information about fluoride varnish for babies, click on the short video below, “Fluoride Varnish for Baby’s Healthy Smile.”

For more videos about kids’ tooth health, click the Videos tab in the menu at the top of the page.

Your experience matters! What’s your opinion of this and other videos? Click here to give Your Opinion on the Tooth Talk videos.



This Quarter’s Theme: Babies and A Dental Home

Tooth Talk’s 7 Tips to Help You Improve Communication with Parents

A recent UNC-Chapel Hill study suggests that EHS staff advice and support can improve the chances of getting a child to that early dentist visit, but not necessarily improve home dental care. How do you optimize your effectiveness when communicating with the parents in your program?

Motivational Interviewing can help. It’s a different way to communicate with parents that is more collaborative and supportive. Best of all, it works. Want to improve interactions with parents? These 7 Tooth Talk Tips can help:

1. Have a short agenda when talking with parents.
2. Never ask more than 3 open-ended questions.
3. Always focus on the good.
4. Be ready with an affirmation/reflection for each question the parent answers.
5. Ask permission to share resources and tips.
6. Then, share only 2 – 3 brief points.
7. If you don’t know something, say so and promise to find out. Follow through on your promise.

To learn more about motivational interviewing and how to help parents improve their children’s dental health, see the video:


This Quarter’s Theme: Babies and A Dental Home

Tooth Talk Expert Helps You Answer Parents’ Questions About Fluoride Varnish

Question: Parents in my program are asking if fluoride varnish is safe for their babies. What can I say?

According to Gary Rozier, DDS, Professor of Health Policy and Management, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, fluoride varnish on babies’ teeth is not only safe but protective.

“The fluoride that dentists put on teeth during regular visits has been a mainstay for the prevention of tooth decay for many years. It provides important extra protection above that provided by the daily use of fluoridated toothpaste at home and fluoride in drinking water. Gels and solutions that were used for many years have been replaced by fluoride varnish, a sticky liquid that is easily painted on the teeth in only a couple of minutes. This way of providing fluoride is more effective than older methods that dentists have used before.

“It is so easy and effective that doctors and nurses have started applying fluoride varnish to the teeth of babies during well-child visits–more than a million in North Carolina. Studies done at UNC-Chapel Hill show a very high level of parent satisfaction with this procedure.

“Many scientific studies have shown fluoride varnish is effective in helping prevent cavities and even reversing early stages of tooth decay, often eliminating the need for fillings. For the most benefit, it’s recommended two to three times a year starting with the appearance of the first tooth.

“Not only is the fluoride varnish process painless, quick and effective, it’s also safe. Children who swallow too much fluoride over long periods of time can develop white spots on the teeth. Fluoride varnish cannot cause these white spots. Because it’s applied only every three to six months, a very small amount is used and some of it is incorporated into the teeth to make them stronger, very little fluoride is swallowed. Less is swallowed with the varnish process that with other types of fluoride treatments used for many years.

“Fluoride varnish application is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Dental Association for use during well-child visits at dental and medical offices.”

Best of all, it’s easy to accomplish: fluoride varnish can be applied in the doctor’s office. Suggest to the parents in your program to check with their child’s doctor to see if it can be a part of a well-baby visit. For a helpful fact sheet about fluoride varnish to share with parents, click here.

We want to know what’s on your mind. Ask the Expert at Tooth Talk, the website about improving children’s dental health for early childhood educators and care providers. Our panel of experts will choose a question each month and answer it on the site and in the weekly email. To ask your anonymous question, click here. See other Ask the Expert posts here.