The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

February 4, 2013

‘Give Kids a Smile’ helps youngsters

National Children’s Dental Health Month

The Daily Southerner
MIRANDA BAINES

ROCKY MOUNT — The smiles on the faces of nine Princeville Elementary School students revealed brighter, healthier teeth after their trip to the dentist Friday morning.

Dr. Jennifer Taylor cleaned the children’s teeth free of charge in her Tarboro dental office as part of the “Give Kids A Smile” program, which is part of National Children’s Dental Health Month.

“The idea of the program is to treat underserved children that don’t go to the dentist regularly,” Taylor said. “We’re excited to be able to do this for the children. We like volunteering in the community and giving back to the area.”

Every child at Taylor’s office Friday morning received a cleaning, oral exam and fluoride treatment and sealants on six-year-molars, if needed.

“Anything that we can’t treat today, we’ll send a letter home to the parents to let them know what’s going on,” Taylor said.

First-grader Jaykayla Harris lay calmly in the dentist’s chair while Taylor and dental assistant Belinda Whitaker put sealants on her molars to help prevent decay. In the process, she learned about oral care.

Lisa Dickerson, Harris’ teacher, quizzed her about what she learned after she returned to the office’s waiting area.

“How often should you brush your teeth, Jaykayla?”

“They said to brush your teeth two times a day… in the morning and at night,” Harris responded.

“What happens if you don’t brush your teeth?” Dickerson asked.

“You’ll have cavities,” she responded.

When asked if getting her teeth cleaned hurt, Harris shook her head, “No.”

“They were excited to come,” Dickerson said. “It’s a good program … For many kids, they don’t have their regular dental checkups.”

Dickerson supplemented the children’s dental visit by reading them books about taking care of their teeth.

The children’s takeaway from the dental visit was important to Taylor and her staff.

“It is very important that kids understand the importance of taking care of their teeth,” Taylor said. “Education, prevention – those are the things that the children are going to carry with them long-term. Our office in general is preventive oriented.”

The cost of dental care is one of the obstacles to children receiving regular treatment. Another obstacle is the parents’ availability during the day to bring them to the dentist.

“This [program] is great because the school brings them,” Taylor said. “It opens up an access to something they might not have otherwise.”

The American Dental Association began the Give Kids A Smile program in 2003. Each year, about 450,000 children across the United States benefit from the program through the efforts of approximately 40,000 volunteers. This year, Taylor and her staff – Whitaker, dental hygienist Karen Ritter, dental assistant Lucinda Plasencio and office manager Elspeth Shaw were among those volunteers.