Telling stories to tackle tooth decay

The children were excited playing educational games and the parents were learning something important at the Tooth Keepers' Day Out at Woodlands Regional Library on March 9.

The event, organised by four final-year undergraduates from the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information in Nanyang Technological University (NTU), was part of their project Tooth Keeper campaign, which aims to raise awareness of declining dental health among Singapore pre-schoolers.

The campaign is part of the group's final-year project, which counts towards their graduation requirement.

"Statistics from the Health Promotion Board's School Dental Service showed that parents are not taking their toddlers for regular dental visits. While the rest of our course-mates were focusing on organising campaigns targeting young adults, we decided to address this issue, targeting parents and young children for our project," said group member Nur Iznina Zainudin. Since mid-February, the students had also been going around pre-school centres and libraries to hold storytelling sessions.

"We wrote and performed a story of four kitty cats and got the children to participate in the storytelling and sing-along sessions. We changed the lyrics of popular nursery rhyme 'if you're happy and you know it, clap your hands' to 'when you wake up in the morning, brush your teeth' so that it will be easy for the children to remember what we're trying to teach them," said another group member, Grace Chow En En.

The group, made up of Iznina, Grace, Emily Ho Cai Shan and Susmitha Changaroth, set up their campaign in partnership with the Singapore Dental Association (SDA) to tackle tooth decay in pre-school children, which has been on the rise in recent years.

On what prompted the collaboration with the students, SDA president Dr Kuan Chee Keong said: "We need to do more to educate parents on how to prevent dental caries. Dentists are treating more pre-schoolers for dental caries today and the numbers have doubled compared to a decade ago and we are concerned. Pre-school children are what I term the 'overlooked age group'."

Through a survey and informal interviews conducted among 202 parents with children aged six and below, the four girls realised that parents of young children are ignorant about taking their children for regular dental checkups because they consider it unnecessary at that age or till a problem arises.

"It is unfortunate that many parents believe that only permanent and not the primary milk teeth are important. Thus, some children end up developing oral diseases so severe that they are traumatised by the conditions with negative consequences which also require long-term treatment," added Dr Kuan.

At the Tooth Keepers' Day Out event, parents were invited to attend free dental forum talks, by three dentists from the Society for Paediatric Dentistry (Singapore), to pick up tips on caring for their children's oral health, while their children were taught the importance of oral care through interactive carnival games.

A parent, Ms Stephanie Koay, who has a daughter aged four, said: "I just dropped in during our weekly visit to the library. I think the children are having fun and my daughter is learning how to take care of her teeth here."

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