Th 331769

The new kid on the block

Feb. 1, 2010
Advancing children's oral health
1993 dental hygiene pinning ceremony — from left: Bob A. Swepston, DDS; Cheryl Thomas, graduation candidate; Cheryl's brother, Robert Webster; and Cheryl's mother; Alma Webster
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Advancing children's oral health

by Cheryl A. Thomas, RDH

Today was a GREAT day! I've started my second year of dental hygiene school and we've started our clinic time. My schedule is a little nerve–racking this semester, but I'm starting to get better at it!

I was a dental assistant for eight years prior to dental hygiene school and I'm already wondering how I'll e–v–e–r become more efficient with my clinical time. We are allotted four hours per appointment. I was able to get my first periodontal charting evaluation completed yesterday.

My favorite class is perio — I even made a 99.5 on the final! Last Monday, I had to observe a periodontal surgery and write a paper. It really hit home about how important our job is! I want to save the world from periodontal disease!

Since we have the day off of school today, I was able to make some extra money filling in as an assistant for my old office. It was great to be back!

Being in dental hygiene school is so busy, I feel like I'm in a vacuum; but today, I saw some familiar patients and even caught up on pop culture by reading a magazine (LOVE the New Kids on the Block new album!!! And I'm STILL in shock over “The Tonight Show” — I'll have to videotape it and watch it this weekend!). Most importantly, Dr. Bob even gave me this FANTASTIC new toothbrush on the market! I can't wait to share it with my friends!!!
— Cheryl Thomas, dental hygiene student (1992)

When I was a student in dental hygiene school, we were in the midst of the first Gulf War. “The Tonight Show” was one of the highest viewed programs of the year. Johnny Carson was retiring and a new comedian, Jay Leno, would be taking his place. Everyone videotaped the event. Yet another late–night show, “The Arsenio Hall Show” was popular for woof! woof! woof! and invited presidential candidate Bill Clinton as a guest. Michael Jackson was the King of Pop. The boy band, New Kids on the Block, was “Hangin' Tough.” And that FANTASTIC toothbrush, Sonicare, was a new kid on the block too!

After graduating from dental hygiene school, I had the opportunity to work in a variety of clinical settings, including general dentistry, perio, pedo, and public health.

Unsurprisingly, each clinical setting provided an opportunity to learn something new. As a dental assistant, my knowledge as an operative chairside assistant enhanced my knowledge of prevention. Likewise, as a dental hygienist in general dentistry, I learned more and more and was able to bring forth that knowledge into other clinical settings.

I ultimately fell in love with children's dentistry. Again, it provided an opportunity to expand my knowledge of oral health. Some children required as much clinical expertise as adults, while others required more behavioral training. Regardless of what service I was providing, I realized the extreme importance of children's oral health. THIS was the true way to treat periodontal disease — before it destroyed those precious periodontal fibers!

We were shaping the attitudes and oral health of patients who would carry these critical habits on throughout their lives. After all, patients who are comfortable in the dental setting don't fear or avoid dental treatment as adults. Furthermore, those patients who have been successful at removing oral biofilms on a daily basis over their lifetime will naturally have a lower incidence of dental disease.

Equally important was finding ways to partner with parents through education and motivation. When Mrs. Jones gets home with Johnny and she's tired, she doesn't want World War III. She needs easy! Otherwise, Johnny's teeth won't be brushed at bedtime every night, and they definitely won't be flossed! Parents have jobs and a mountain of responsibilities that will take priority in a battle that starts at 9 p.m. And in this battle, everybody loses.

It is incredibly important to introduce oral health techniques in baby steps and focus on fun. Still, it's not that easy. It's challenging just to brush the teeth of a toddler. They can twist and contort in ways that even the most experienced clinician would find difficult. And even parents with the best intentions are going to miss areas, especially if they're using a manual toothbrush.

Even more elusive are preteens and teenagers. Although they may be capable of brushing their teeth adequately, frequently they do not. The reasons are countless but no less frustrating when Mom or Dad is faced with a large dental bill for operative care. Prevention is priceless!

Evidence–based research and clinical experience has shown time and time again the superiority of power toothbrushes compared to manual toothbrushes for adult patients. As a clinician in the pediatric setting, I was always encouraged when parents inquired about mechanical toothbrushes for their children. However, there were many unappealing things about what was available on the market. Children have special wants and needs when it comes to toothbrush selection — as do their parents — and neither can be ignored. We needed a better power toothbrush to meet the needs of everyone!

In May 2009, at the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry's (AAPD) 62nd Annual Session, Philips Oral Health Care released Sonicare For Kids — The First Sonicare Power Toothbrush Designed for Children. Sonicare For Kids is supported by sound clinical research with a design that accommodates the various developmental needs of children.

Remarkable insights helped to develop features such as:

  • Kid Pacer (similar to the Sonicare Quad Pacer), which is already activated with a 15–second–per–quad timer and will incrementally increase over 90 days to the standard two–minute brushing time (unbeknownst to the child). Furthermore, musical notes will alert the child when it's time to advance to the next quadrant.
  • An enhanced brush head over–mold, which protects the child's opposing dentition.
  • An ergonomic handle that fits comfortably in a child's hand and includes two gripping locations so children can brush with an adult's assistance during training and then transition to brushing independently when they are ready.
  • Softer bristles, age–specific head design, and lower power settings.
  • Toothbrush heads that are easy to insert and remove. As the child grows, parents do not need to purchase a new unit handle. It is compatible for the different–sized toothbrush heads for children ages 4 to 10.
  • An anti–roll feature on the handle reduces the risk of toothpaste loss to the countertop.
  • An easily interchangeable panel to customize the toothbrush to the child's liking.
  • All from a reputable company that the public knows and respects since their first introduction to consumers nearly two decades ago. Philips guarantees its products for two years after the date of purchase, making it an attractive investment for parents.

Although not marketed toward special needs groups (i.e., senior citizens and immunocompromised patients), this power toothbrush may be promising for these groups as well.

The rubber handle is very easy to grasp. On the back of the handle are slightly raised bumps that enhance dexterity when rotating the brush to a different position in the mouth.

Dollars and sense

A power toothbrush typically retails for $100 plus tax, compared to a manual toothbrush or battery–operated toothbrush that costs $3 to $7 plus tax. There is no difference in the projected length of life of the toothbrush head/bristles between a manual and power toothbrush. However, a manual toothbrush at $3 every six months is $12 plus tax per year, with limited efficacy. A battery–operated toothbrush at $7 is $28 plus tax per year, again with limited efficacy.

The new Sonicare For Kids retails for $69.99, an investment that can easily pay for itself when superior efficacy, attractiveness, and ease of use are factored into the equation. The fact that this brush is designed to grow and develop with the needs of the child is a strong selling point.

Prevention is better than cure. — Erasmus

Just as dental clinicians bring forward experience from day to day and job setting to job setting, so do our patients. Children have a lifetime of oral health in front of them. With proper coaching and partnership from their oral health–care providers, the future of their oral health can have a bright horizon.

Sometimes children, parents, and even clinicians underemphasize the importance of biofilm removal, perhaps because children are considered “small.” However, when you step back and evaluate the number of potential years that they are in our care, it undoubtedly becomes one of our greatest responsibilities, challenges, and successes!

A lot of things have changed throughout the years. We find ourselves in another Gulf War. “The Tonight Show”'s Jay Leno himself retired recently! We lost the King of Pop. Even the New Kids on the Block band has disappeared and has now reappeared as NKOTB, so they still appear to be “Hangin' Tough.” And that FANTASTIC toothbrush, Sonicare, continues to listen to what patients, parents, and dental providers want.

Today, the new power toothbrush kid on the block is, indeed, continuing to contribute to the improved oral health of both adults and now children, with innovative, research–based technology.

Dr. Bob's timely recommendation of Sonicare so many years ago is a tribute to his wisdom and a testament to my longevity in a profession I still adore!

About the Author

Cheryl A. Thomas, RDH, currently resides in Galveston, Texas. She can be contacted at [email protected], or visit her Web site at


  1. Pelka M, DeLaurenti M, Master A, Jenkins W, Strate J, Wei J, Schmitt P. 2009, International J. Pediatric Dent., 19:sl.
  2. Milleman J, Putt M, Olson M, Master A, Jenkins W, Schmitt P, Strate J. 2009, J International J Pediatric Dent., 19:sl.
  3. Defenbaugh J, Schmitt P, Master A, Jenkins W, Schmitt P, Strate J. 2009, J International J Pediatric Dent, 19:sl.
  4. Payne D, Rimmer P, Olson M, Master A, Jenkins W, Schmitt P, Strate J. 2009, J International J Pediatric Dent, 19:sl.

What do children want in a power toothbrush?

  • Children find it difficult to tolerate the tickling of a rattling toothbrush.
  • Children would rather hear musical tunes or science fiction noises than an industrial humming noise.
  • Children like bright colors.
  • Although we'd like them to brush for two minutes, children find that amount of time excruciatingly long.

What do parents want in a power toothbrush?

  • Parents want a quality toothbrush that their child will use.
  • Parents would like a toothbrush that prevents cavities.
  • Parents don't want to pay the same amount for a toothbrush for their child as they do for themselves.
  • Parents would be more receptive to a toothbrush that they knew would last for a number of years and that would adapt to their child's growth.
  • Parents want a product that children will use and that requires little to no supervision.
  • Parents want a product that won't break if you drop it.
  • Parents want to replace the brush heads conveniently, easily, and inexpensively.
  • Parents don't want a children's toothbrush to be a fad or toy, but a reliable return on investment that will save them money for years to come.

What do dental health–care providers want in a power toothbrush?

  • They want a reliable product that efficiently removes oral biofilms and has evidence–based research to substantiate product claims.
  • They want a product that virtually sells itself, with attractive packaging and a reputation that consumers are familiar with.
  • They want products that are not only affordable, but easy and convenient for consumers to purchase.
  • They want two toothbrush head sizes available for a variety of mouth sizes.
  • They want a variety of colors to appeal to a variety of personalities.
  • They want a product with a fair price.
  • They want a product that improves patient oral health and, in turn, makes our job easier!
  • They want a product that improves our reputation because we recommended it!