Smiles for visiting dentists

More than the dentist came to students enrolled at Fairgrounds State Preschool in Bakersfield on July 9 and 10. Taft Community College also sent five student dental hygienists. Taft dentist and instructor, Dr. Stacy Eastman, provided oral screenings for 43 students. The student hygienists charted plaque levels, demonstrated brushing technique, cleaned teeth, provided fluoride treatments and in some cases sealed teeth against plaque and decay.

When five year-old Jazanae finished her cleaning she rushed over to tell her teacher, “Miss Teresa, I went over there, and I did good.”

It is all part of a program called Kern County Children’s Dental Health Network financed through Proposition 10 funding and administered by CCCC. The Taft College Dental Hygiene Program has collaborated with CCCC for several years to give its students a unique training experience.

Student dental hygienist Michelle Knight kept one young child occupied with questions and demonstrations while she checked his teeth and showed him how to brush.

“Wow, you open big,” Knight told him. “You’ve been to a dentist before haven’t you? Let me show you how to brush at home (as she used the brush on his teeth). Get to the insides like that and make sure you work the brush all the way around. Brush in circles and remember to brush after breakfast and before you go to bed at night. Okay?” The child nodded in agreement.

“I think it’s a great advantage for our students,” Eastman said. “It instills the importance of public health, and it helps our students get over any possible intimidation or fear they may have had about treating younger children.”

CCCC Special Projects Facilitator Janice Montoya who coordinates the program said there is a “huge” need for dental care in Kern County’s youth.

“The rate of preschool children with tooth decay statewide is 34 percent, but in Kern County it is almost double that rate - 65 percent,” Montoya said. “It’s really sad. Past roadblocks for parents have been inconvenience and cost. By performing the dental work at the school, we have provided convenience and since all the work is free there is no financial barrier.”

Also, collaborating with CCCC is Clinica Sierra Vista which drives its mobile dental van to schools the week following screenings to provide free services including treatments, fillings and extractions. Parents have the option of using Clinica’s dentists, seeing their own dentist or being referred to one of three pediatric dentists (Dr. Daniel Launspagh, Dr. Richard Grabowsky or Dr. Randy Beemer) affiliated with the program.

Before the funded year ends in November, the Kern County Children’s Dental Health Network will have visited 12 school sites and provided dental services to approximately 1,200 preschool age children. Next year the number of children served will be even greater when the program expands to 17 sites. The services are free to all preschool age students regardless of family income.

“It’s less intimidating than visiting the dentist’s office,” Montoya said. “By reaching children at an early age, we can teach them about prevention and reduce the upward decay cycle.”

From the Kern County Dental Health Network:

1. For babies, use a bottle at meal times only and make sure to hold it yourself.

2. Put your baby to bed with a blanket, soft toy or a clean pacifier.

3. Clean your baby’s teeth and gums, each day, with a clean washcloth.

4, Help your child brush his/her teeth until the age of five.

5. Have children brush after eating sweets.
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