Tabitha Resized

Healthy reading for healthy smiles: New children's books promote oral hygiene

Sept. 22, 2014
New children's books, Tabitha the Tooth and Tanner the Tooth, come in a box set with plush characters for use in the operatory and/or at home.

For several years, I have been working on a project to help raise public awareness for children's dental health. It all started when I was invited to speak to students at a local elementary school during National Children's Dental Health Month. My presentation used posters and models of teeth, and it kept the students’ attention for about five minutes. When I was asked to return the next year, I decided to come up with a presentation that would both entertain and educate the students. I was determined to keep their attention for the entire program.

To accomplish my goal, I wrote a play about a tooth named Tabitha and the choices she makes to achieve and maintain a healthy smile. My awesome staff acted out the play by dressing up in giant tooth costumes, carrot costumes, and toothpaste costumes and dancing around on stage. Both the teachers and the kids loved it!

In December of 2013, I decided to turn the play into a book and send it to several publishers. Mascot Books Publishing contacted me, and over the past several months, I worked with them to develop the books, Tabitha the Tooth and Tanner the Tooth. The books focus on three main ideas: healthy snack choices, good oral hygiene, and what to expect from dental visits. Each book comes in a box set with a corresponding Tanner or Tabitha plush character.

The box set is designed to entertain and educate. It can be useful in a home environment, a school environment, and/or a dental office environment. In my office, my dental assistants and hygienists use the Tabitha and Tanner books and plush characters in the operatory. If a child presents as apprehensive during an office visit or appears to need lessons on oral hygiene or nutrition, we read a section pertaining to the issue from one of the books. We use the plush as a visual aid or allow the child to hold the plush during their visit for comfort.

Beyond the dental office, the plush character can be used on a daily basis as a reminder of the lessons from the books. Children can also take the plush characters to their dental visits for comfort. It is fun for kids and an easy educational tool for parents.

These books are colorfully illustrated and full of action to keep children's attention. Since dental visits should not be threatening, the books use fun words, and the pictures of dental instruments resemble spoons and mirrors.

To learn more about the books or to purchase them, visit Visit the Facebook page for Tabitha and Tanner for updates on what my team is doing in our community to help promote happy, healthy smiles.

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Gina Mancini, DMD, graduated from Tufts University School of Dental Medicine in 2000. She continued her training at Harvard School of Dental Medicine and at a private practice in Cambridge, MA. In 2003, she moved to her hometown of Jacksonville, NC, where she eventually opened her own practice. As a full-time practicing dentist and mother of five, Dr. Mancini understands the challenges in helping children to achieve and maintain healthy smiles. In 2014, Dr. Mancini received the Book of the Year Award from Creative Child magazine.