09/28/04 — Program gives students a first trip to dentist

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Program gives students a first trip to dentist

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on September 28, 2004 2:03 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Ayanna Dawson and Kadjah Loftin, both 8 years old and students at Carver Elementary School, have never been to the dentist.

In spite of that, they said they have been educated in the care and cleaning of their teeth.

"I brush them every day, when I eat and at night," Kadjah said.

The girls were among students waiting outside a room at the school converted into a makeshift dental office. As part of the N.C. Oral Health Section collaboration with the Wayne County public schools, select students at the school participated in a dental sealant program this week.

Kadjah said she was excited about being chosen, but admitted she didn't know what to expect.

"They might drill a hole in my teeth," she guessed, adding that she believed going to the dentist would help make the her teeth "sparkly and clean."

Kalee Rich, a third-grader at the school, said she was a little nervous, even though she has seen a dentist before. She explained that her understanding of this week's visit was "to put something on your teeth to prevent getting cavities."

Lynne Fulghum works with the Oral Health Section, a statewide program that provides prevention and education services on dental health for children. This is only the second time the program, begun in 1994, has been offered at a school site, the first being at Brogden Primary School two years ago.

Ms. Fulghum said she did a visual screening at the school a month ago to determine the need among students. The main criteria is that students must have their first permanent molars. She said she narrowed down the prospects from nearly 600 to 100 students in kindergarten through third grade.

A dentist visited the school Friday and on Monday to determine the best candidates for the protective sealant. Four public health dental hygienists will be at the school each day this week to administer the sealant.

Dr. David McDaniel, public health dentist with the Oral Health Section based in Wilmington, has been traveling around the eastern part of the state doing this for 25 years.

"We provide the service to select schools across the state," he said. "It's limited by the number of staff we have."

He said the service is generally offered once a year in select counties, and not every county is included each year.

He said the service is a fairly simple procedure and that children seem to enjoy it. A plastic coating is applied to the teeth's surface and serves to prevent cavities from forming.

"It lasts from five to 10 years," he said. "It can prevent up to 85 percent of the cavities children get in their back teeth.

"It's something that does a lot of good for the children."

Sharon Jeanes, social worker at the school, said the students were brought in beforehand to observe the process and to allay their fears. She said most of the students did fine, despite an initial reaction to the loud noise of the air compressor used.

Ms. Jeanes applauded the efforts of those in the program and volunteers at the school who worked to make it a positive experience for the students.

"I'm just very pleased and excited that my children at Carver get this kind of service," she said.