A new initiative is educating young people about the benefits of oral health at the Brandon Aboriginal Youth Activity Centre.
Local dental hygienist Sasha Zeiler, of Chancellor Dental Group, was on hand at the Brandon Aboriginal Youth Activity Centre (BAYAC) on April 20 to teach young children how to properly brush and care for their teeth. Zeiler hosts oral health clinics through Prairie Mountain Health. The clinic is strictly educational and no dental treatment or services are provided.
“It’s giving them the knowledge that they can brush their teeth all by themselves, they just need a little bit of encouragement,” Zeiler said. “I’m just giving you the tools that you need to do that on your own.” The clinics initially started in the summer of 2021 as a way to connect with vulnerable populations in the community. She first began hosting them out of the 7th Street Health Access Centre and has since expanded to different organizations through collaborations in the community.
During a clinic, Zeiler provides toothbrushes, toothpaste and floss to help people take better care of their teeth. She also highlights potential dental care opportunities and funding through education.
While at BAYAC, Zeiler taught youth how to properly floss their teeth and how to brush their teeth. This involved using a disclosing tablet that colour spots youth may have missed with their toothbrush — the darker the blue, the more often a spot is missed, while lighter areas indicated it may have just been missed that day.
“It’s a visual aid to let kids know they didn’t brush that spot.”
The goal of clinics is to create a hands-on approach for youth in a non-intimidating environment. Zeiler wants young people to know they are going to have these teeth for the rest of their lives, so they have to take care of them.
The clinics can help youth develop a routine that will lead to positive dental health care for the rest of their lives.
“I always use the example that if you walk outside you put shoes on, you just automictically do that, that’s what we need brushing and taking care of your teeth to be,” Zeiler said. “When you go to bed at night, brush your teeth; when you wake up in the morning, brush your teeth.” She said the clinics foster important conversations because visiting the dentists can be scary for children. The oral health clinic helps demystify a trip to the tooth doctor.
“We have been doing this pilot program and trying to get a little bit more in the community,” Zeiler said. “What we started doing is we started going to the groups.”
Growing the clinics has had its challenges and they have faced adversity during COVID-19 due to public health measures preventing easy connections with the community. However, the program has started to gain momentum, Zeiler said, and she is seeing more participants stop by for clinics.
Zeiler will visit anywhere from daycares to classrooms and everywhere in between a couple of times a month.
She is hoping to connect with more community members in the future. Classes are hosted based on community requests, Prairie Mountain Health did not provide information on how to request a clinic visit by press time.
BAYAC community youth mentor Miranda Traverse hopes to continue hosting the oral health clinic for youth on an annual basis. Traverse invited the oral health clinic to come to BAYAC because it is vital for youth and an important part of their overall health. “Growing up you need someone to tell you to brush your teeth,” Traverse said. “They don’t know-how. They need to be told how many minutes [to brush], how to floss, how to hold their toothbrush and they need a mirror [to see how].”
The clinics have been hosted twice at BAYAC in 2022 for two separate groups, and youth were able to care for their teeth in a fun way.
It is a positive event because it’s an opportunity for youth between the ages of seven and 11 to participate in BAYAC while learning about oral health care.
BAYAC is part of the Brandon Friendship Centre promoting everyone’s well-being as a whole and taking care of teeth is a part of this mission, Traverse said.
“We have our physical, our emotional, our spiritual we all have to take care of all of that, and that includes oral health.”
BAYAC is focused on following Indigenous traditional cultural teachings and will be hosting beading and ribbon skirt making on Saturdays. Other activities include the return on powwow club once a month.
The focus of the group is on the overall well-being of community youth. Young people who visit the centre can also play sports, coping skill games, arts and crafts, cooking and other activities related to health.
Traverse’s favourite activity is sharing circles where youth can share emotions and feelings in a safe space.
“It’s a place where kids can come learn about their culture through cultural activities,” Traverse said. “We want the kids to safely learn about their culture.”
BAYAC is open from 4 to 7 p.m., Tuesday to Friday, and 1 to 7 p.m. Saturday. To participate in activities, purchase a Brandon Friendship Centre membership for $5 for single a person, $10 for a family and $2 for elders.
For more information on upcoming events follow the BAYAC Facebook page.
The Brandon My Health Team oral health clinics are for children ages 17 and under. The clinics are being offered by a dental hygienist out of various centres and programs throughout the community.
Contact Brandi Burton, My Health Team facilitator at 204-901-2909 to host a clinic.
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Chelsea Kemp, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun