In Lithuania, the incidence of dental caries among children is very high. Around 60% of the children who enter school at grade one and 90% percent of school leavers, have dental caries. Not all parents understand that they are responsible for their children’s teeth, so the lack of oral hygiene skills originates within the family. It is very important to compensate for this deficiency at least partially through the dentists of educational institutions and the dentists in odontology who are the first to check children’s teeth.

A pre-school group of children from the Vilnius Riešutelis kindergarten paid a visit to the Institute of Dentistry of the Faculty of Medicine (MF) at Vilnius University (VU). They had the opportunity to not only carefully examine the dentist’s workplace, and communicate with dental students, but also to try on their white coats. 

20230223 Vaikai pas odontologus 1VU MF archive photograph.

“In our kindergarten, February is dedicated to the topic of health, so we talk to the children about the need to take care of one’s health, and they learn a great deal. Oral hygiene is very important from a very young age, so the subject of dental care and treatment is very relevant. Of course, to see, to investigate and take part, is always more interesting and has a greater impact,” said Vilma Daugirdienė, Deputy Director of the kindergarten. Daugirdienė believes that a real visit, communication, and an opportunity to touch the instruments helps overcome the fears and stereotypes that children sometimes bring from their homes or other medical institutions. The child’s thinking is formed from an early age, as they absorb experiences, emotions, and impressions on a daily basis. “The more the child learns, the broader their worldview is. Who knows, perhaps one of these children will be back as a student in 12 years' time,” she noted.

According to Prof. Vilma Brukienė, Director of the Institute of Dentistry at Vilnius University, such experiences broaden children’s understanding. “Meeting with students not only eliminates their fears, but also provides knowledge that can be applied immediately. Sometimes, after such meetings, children go back home and teach their parents how to properly care for their teeth,” explained the professor, smiling, and then assured us that the experience is mutually beneficial.

“We do our best to arrange these children’s meetings with dental students every year – sometimes we go to kindergartens and sometimes children visit us. Future dentists communicating with small children, learn how to patiently and clearly explain to them how to prevent dental diseases. After all, the goal of future specialists is not only to remove or drill teeth, but also to create positive, preventative habits.” According to Prof. Brukienė, today, fewer and fewer students opt for children’s dentistry as their specialization following their integrated studies. Initiatives like these, help students to get to know this area better, and perhaps discover their vocation.

20230223 Vaikai pas odontologus 8VU MF archive photograph.

“Working with children doesn’t seem very difficult to me, but it does require good training in psychology. Lecturers say that there are fewer complex clinical cases, but I have already realized that one must make a lot of effort to earn the trust of such little patients,” said Emilija Grybaitė, a fourth year dental student, during a break from a group of inquisitive six-year-olds. It is nice when children come and sit in the dental chair without any fear, are interested in everything, and happy to ask questions. I see a great deal of meaning in communicating with children, because there is hope that they will actively apply knowledge in the future and help us to prevent many diseases.”

The Institute of Dentistry has been cooperating with the Vilnius Riešutelis kindergarten for five years, and a visit of two more pre-school groups is planned to take place in the near future.

20230223 Vaikai pas odontologus 40VU MF archive photograph.

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