Lecturers will quickly be requested to show toothbrushing 101 in Quebec, elevating workload considerations
A tooth-brushing program that is soon to be phased in across Quebec in elementary schools is raising concern among teachers because they’ll be the ones called upon to supervise the students as they clean their teeth.
The public health protocols call on educators to monitor the two-minute tooth-brushing process from start to finish once a day.
“I think it’s a great idea, however, we cannot increase the workload of teachers. This is not their job. They need to hire people to implement this program,” said Heidi Yetman, president of the Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers (QPAT).
The on-site supervised brushing is meant to help improve the health of vulnerable, younger children in Quebec, many of whom suffer from tooth decay, according to a detailed summary sent by the health ministry.
“No one is questioning the value and importance of ensuring that our children learn how to brush their teeth properly and that they have good oral hygiene but is that the responsibility of the school,” said Peggy McCourt, the President of the Association of Administrators of English Schools of Quebec (AAESQ)
The Quebec Program for Supervised Brushing of Teeth with Fluoride Toothpaste in Educational Childcare and Elementary School (QPSBTF) was launched in 2017 by the health ministry, but the pandemic slowed down its implementation.
During the early stages of the program, hygienists and public-health dental consultants were dispatched to certain schools, though only in regions where there was adequate public-health staff available.
According to the ministry, the plan was updated in 2022. Now, the goal is to get the program back on track, though it will be implemented progressively depending on the region.
More details are expected to be announced on Friday. Danny Raymond, the spokesperson for Montreal’s Centre-South CIUSSS told CTV News the program will likely only begin in the city’s schools early next year.
The program will also task daycare educators with ensuring all children under four in their care receive a daily tooth-brushing session.
STAFF, TIME SHORTAGES
According to the guidelines currently posted on a government website, the supervising teacher will be asked to ensure the children use an appropriate amount of toothpaste, spit out the excess, use toothbrushes in good condition, and don’t share them or store them in an unsanitary way.
There are also rules about infection control, hand washing, and the suggestion that children brush their teeth in small groups.
The educators contacted are all on board with the premise of the program but said, amid staffing shortages, the time-consuming routine will cut into their teaching and other responsibilities.
“It’s at what cost to our curriculum? We’re already very focused on the learning gaps that we’re trying to address coming out of the pandemic and the high levels of anxiety and mental health concerns,” McCourt said.
McCourt said, as an administrator at a school, she sees first-hand how teachers’ workload has increased dramatically over the years.
“We have schools that are still looking for teachers to hire,” so she and her colleagues are mostly worried about the amount of time they’ll have to “invest,” she said.
The ministry’s summary states that “the integration of healthy dental habits into the lives of young people is a shared collective responsibility.”
Yetman said the teachers’ contract with the government expires in March of 2023 and so they will soon be heading into public-sector negotiations.
“We will be trying to improve teachers’ working conditions. Adding more responsibilities on the back of teachers will not retain and attract people into this profession,” she said.