Dental Nursing Essentials Article

Little Key Worker Co. Features in Dental Nursing Essentials

Our founder, Victoria Bond, was approached by Dental Nursing Essentials to discuss her career in which she combines her role as a hygienist, with the running of Little Key Worker Co.

Dentistry Paired with Charitable Initiatives

Speaking about the editorial opportunity, Victoria commented: “I was thrilled to be asked to talk about the positive work we’ve been doing at Little Key Worker. Working as a key worker myself, I know how much blood sweat and tears goes into this role across various disciplines, it truly is a vocation.”

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Dental hygienist Victoria Bond pays more than just lip service to championing Britain’s frontline workers. As founder of Little Key Worker Co, an online gift shop that donates profits to charity, she went above and beyond during the pandemic to offer her support. Finding inspiration in daughter Annie’s lockdown arts and crafts project, Little Key Worker Co is an emporium of stationery, puzzles, mugs and other gifts all featuring branded childlike-illustrations. It grew so popular during the height of Covid-19 that Victoria now splits her time between working as a hygienist at Worsthorne Dental Practice in Burnley and Clavell-Bate & Nephew Dental Surgery in Whalley, and managing her philanthropic enterprise. Practicing in a profession on which empathy is indelibly imprinted, Victoria’s project inevitably incorporates this fundamental principle. But where did this enthusiasm for compassionate care-giving begin? A dental nurse for eight years, Victoria used this time to get to know dentistry inside- out and as a stepping stone to becoming a dental hygienist. She even spent her evenings shadowing two hygienists at Worsthorne.

Dental Practice in order to gain the experience she needed to apply to study at Newcastle University. “Newcastle was where I really wanted to be,” she recalls. “I applied for dental school and did my placement in the second year, working in outreach clinics, orthodontic surgeries and hospitals. This gave me a taste of different environments and helped me decide where my future lay.” On graduating, she returned to Worsthorne – this time as a qualified dental hygienist. She enjoys the role, the location and the team with whom she works.

She cites dentist and practice owner John Bate’s oft-quoted dictum of ‘prevention is better than cure’ as the basis of her approach to communicating the need for good oral health care to her patients, the number of which has burgeoned since Covid- 19 began.

“Worsthorne has a real family vibe and is situated in a beautiful village. Since the pandemic, we have seen a wave of new patients. With many people having to wait months for an appointment at their own dental practice, they started to book appointments to see us, so it has been manic. Come the school holidays, we’re back to back,” she says. Early years dental visits are very much encouraged and the practice's Children’s SmileCare Plan means paediatric patients benefit hugely from a ‘fully inclusive treatment package concentrating on tooth strengthening, bonded sealants and hygienist care’. This is evidently where Victoria’s strength lies. As mum to Annie (aged eight) and Oliver (four), she often draws on her experiences as a parent to connect with young patients, even gleaning from her daughter how children learn best – “they are very adept at using digital technology, I’ve learnt” she laughs. She also applies evidence-based practice to her oral health education, explaining, “It is vitally important to build up good rapport and trust. I have been at the practice for 16 years and some of the patients I first saw when they were five or six are now in their early 20s and finishing university. Rarely do they have fillings, which means they have implemented that all-important advice I gave them at a very early age. I may see them in between term times and they always come back – even into early adulthood.”

These habits, she says, are often passed onto the next generation – and it is this that makes her role incredibly meaningful. “I go to great lengths to explain why toothbrushing is important. I disclose the teeth, especially if there is a lot of plaque, and then show them the areas they are missing. Lots of parents find it hard gauge when to allow their children the freedom to brush without supervision, so disclosing is a good indicator of how they’re performing. “It’s also important to pitch my vocabulary to suit the age of the patient. For younger children, I will talk about plaque in terms of ‘getting rid of the nasty bugs’ and use a flip chart to show what bacteria look like. The reaction is very often ‘ugh, that’s disgusting!’.

“Come their next visit, children remember what you have shown them. They more readily retain this knowledge if they are looking at visuals, so I demonstrate good brushing technique on an app or use the Oral-B Test Drive so I can physically engage. As my daughter showed me, children are far better with digital technology than adults.” Victoria is also keen for her young patients to switch from using a manual to an electric toothbrush as soon as they are ready – and daughter Annie is an inspiration here, too. “When children bring in their manual brushes, I will often reference Annie and say, for example, ‘I have a little girl the same age as you who uses an electric toothbrush’ as I have found initially they are a bit reluctant to switch and it can feel alien to them. I tend to use the Oral-B Stages Power Kids Electric Toothbrush at first to help get them used to the different sensation. It can be quite a transition, so we adopt baby steps. By the age of three, they are often happy to use the fully chargeable Oral-B Brush.” Annie is four years older than Oliver and already he wants the same toothbrush as his sister. Victoria believes children can often be the educators at home.

In fact, the unexpected bonus of her approach to paediatric dental care has been the number of parents who have also made the switch to electric toothbrushes. “They then decide to invest in an electric brush as well, because they can see how a timer can encourage optimum brushing, especially when I tell them how one study found that most of us only brush for 41 seconds with a manual toothbrush – less than half the recommended time. They also like that the Oral-B electric toothbrushes show them the best angle of approach and comes with a two-minute timer that beeps after every 30 seconds to guide them to the next Quadrant.” She shares links to YouTube cartoons that help show the children best brushing techniques, or she suggests listening to their favourite tunes while brushing to keep them focused. Victoria has been in dentistry since the age of 16, when she was little more than a child herself. Now with Annie and Oliver, her paediatric patients and a charitable enterprise all to nurture, she is set to be an educator for generations to come.

Meanwhile, Little Key Worker Co continues to grow organically – a reflection perhaps of Victoria’s own dedication to the success of any long-term project.

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