Twice a week, Maddie Davidson travels through the halls of Akron Children’s Locust Pediatric Care Group carrying an oversized toothbrush and model of the mouth. When patients have a few minutes before or after their appointment, she uses the opportunity to demonstrate proper brushing and flossing and answers questions about dental health.
The other 3 days a week, Davidson works as a dental hygienist in the dental practice of her husband, William Davidson, DDS, in Northfield, Ohio.
“I still love being a dental hygienist, but this is a nice break 2 days a week,” she said. “My own children are grown. I love kids and this fills that void.”
Dr. Cooper White, a pediatrician and medical director of Locust Pediatric Care Group, and Dr. Joel Davidson were thrilled nearly 2 years ago to learn of Davidson’s interest and availability to volunteer a few days a week in their busy primary care office.
The time Davidson spends with patients may be their only link to dental care and education.
“We have a high need for dental education,” said Dr. White. “Many of our patients, especially within our refugee populations, have never been to a dentist and have poor nutrition. Some suffer with dental pain and discomfort. The information Maddie shares can make an impact. We are hopeful about that.”
On a recent day, Davidson stopped by to visit with 10-year-old Kaile Henry, of Akron.
Pointing to a medical infographic featuring Monster High characters (she uses Teenage Mutant Ninja Warriors for boys), she explained to Kaile that she should be brushing her teeth at least 2 times a day for a minimum of 2 minutes.
Kaile was an attentive listener as Davidson explained the importance of daily tooth brushing, and she demonstrated to Davidson how she brushes her own teeth using the large toothbrush.
Davidson then showed Kaile the best way to wrap dental floss around her fingers. She shows her a “c” shaped maneuver to use the floss to clean between the teeth in the tiny areas the brush cannot reach.
Kaile’s mother asked Davidson questions about tooth whitening products, sugar substitutes in toothpaste, and what to look for in an electric toothbrush.
“Electric toothbrushes are great,” said Davidson. “Some even play music to help a child keep brushing for 2 minutes. But only buy the brushes with soft bristles.”
For her next patients, Davidson relied on Damber Subba, a member of Akron Children’s Language Access Team, to interpret her talk into Nepali for a mother and her 2 children.
In addition to her tooth brushing and flossing demonstrations, she encouraged 13-year-old Rinchen Lepcha and her 6-year-old brother, Roman, to eat more fruits and vegetables and set up a dental appointment for Rinchen on her next day off school.
Like Kaile, the children were given new toothbrushes and toothpaste.
Recognizing that Davidson cannot see every patient in their practices, the physicians and nurse practitioners in Locust Pediatric Care Group also share dental health tips during well child visits. These include reminding parents not to let their infants go to sleep with a bottle and reminding them of the amount of sugar toddlers consume by drinking juice.
“I think we are all now more aware of the growing evidence linking caries and bacteria in the mouth to inflammatory disease,” said Dr. White. “Poor dental health can have long-term implications for a child’s overall health and can carry into adulthood. Brushing, flossing, eating healthy foods, and getting regular dental check-ups are all good habits to establish early on in life.”