North Carolina dentist uses creativity to teach children about importance of oral health

It wasn’t supposed to be this big.

Earlier this decade, ADA member dentist Dr. Gina Mancini of Jacksonville, North Carolina, was invited to teach children at her own kids’ school about the importance of oral health. With a creative mind and a desire to avoid convention, Dr. Mancini developed a play for the students.

After receiving positive feedback from students, parents and teachers, Dr. Mancini decided a book would allow her to reach even more kids. This began the journey of Tabitha the Tooth and Tanner the Tooth.

From North Carolina to Around the World

After receiving artistic feedback from her own children, and the children of dental hygienists in her practice, Dr. Mancini and her publisher released books centering around two characters, Tabitha the Tooth and Tanner the Tooth.

The pair share tips about how to develop positive oral health habits and quickly became popular in Dr. Mancini’s community. “The book has even traveled to Africa,” Dr. Mancini said. “I donated a number of box sets for a group of teachers from our community traveling to Africa to give to the students. It was really exciting to see kids around the world reading the book and learning about oral health.”

These days, Dr. Mancini introduces children to Tabitha and Tanner at schools, libraries and daycares.

Opening New Doors

Outside of their main purpose of teaching children, the books have allowed Dr. Mancini to reach a new level of notoriety in Jacksonville. All of her young patients leave with a box set featuring the book and a doll, and Dr. Mancini noted this is something most dentists can’t offer.

“It’s something extra we can offer,” she said, explaining that her practice is near a military base, where word of her practice has traveled fast among parents. “I think the book has definitely brought in more patients.”

A Creative Outlet

What advice would Dr. Mancini offer to a new dentist considering a creative outlet?

Just try it.

“Getting started is the hard part,” Dr. Mancini said. “It’s great to try something outside of the box.”

For all the benefits Dr. Mancini has gained from her books – a positive reputation, sales royalties, additional patients – none compare to her favorite of the bunch.

“My kids (five boys) are so excited about Tabitha and Tanner,” Dr. Mancini said. “I’ve always said if nothing else comes of this book, my kids are proud of me, and that’s all I need.”

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