Tooth talk with a special twist

November 13th, 2013
02students-tooth-talkStudents use a new video to prepare for leading oral health talks for children with special needs.

Children with special needs may learn in manners different from their peers, but their oral health care essentials are the same as any youngster’s. A new video from the restorative sciences department teaches dental students how to relate to these exceptional patients in ways they’ll best understand. Then the next time a dental visit rolls around, not only will the children have pearly white teeth to show off to the dentist, they’ll feel excited — not anxious — about the appointment.

D3s Sarah Severson, Stephanie Reeh and Niekia Franklin watched the video in mid-October before setting out for a “Tooth Talk” at the Rise School of Dallas, which provides early childhood education to students with Down syndrome and developmental disabilities.

“One child’s face lit up when I revealed to her my smile under the blue dental mask,” Severson says. “The dental mask is something that makes many of the children anxious and fearful; I was delighted that I could reveal to her that under the scary mask was something she was familiar with and comforted by — a big, warm smile!”

The video featuring Restorative Sciences Assistant Professor Dr. Grace Snuggs focuses on sensory stimulation as the primary tool to teach special needs children about their teeth and the dentist.

“Many of these children have limited receptive and expressive language, and teaching them about the dentist through tactile, smell and other sensory means is not only fun but an excellent way to show these kids exactly who the dentist is,” says Severson.

Leeanna Bartlett, director of social services, accompanied the dental students to the Rise School for the talk.

“I think she did a fantastic job,” Bartlett says of Snuggs’ video presentation. “It’s really easy to follow and understand. All three girls that went watched the video first, and they just walked into it as if it were something they do all the time.”

Dental students interested in viewing “Sensory Tooth Talk” can contact Leeanna Bartlett at or ext. 8353.

— Jennifer Fuentes