Sunny view students getting dental work.
Sunny view students getting dental work.

Sunny View protects students’ smiles

Published 7:01pm Thursday, January 23, 2014

Sunny View Elementary students will show sunshine smiles thanks to a recent project to protect their teeth, school counselor Monica Barber said.

“Through this program, students here at Sunny View are well on their way to having cavity-free teeth,” Barber said. “It could make a difference for them for a long time to come.”

All of the students in Sunny View Elementary in kindergarten through fourth grade had the opportunity to participate. Carla Anderson, a public health registered dental hygienist, screened the students to find out if they would benefit from sealants. Of those students, 29 needed a second dental examination by Jean Spratt, a public health dentist, to make sure they were candidates for the sealants, and 28 students obtained the special protection for their teeth. They sat in a special, fully equipped mobile dentist chair.

The program, sponsored through the NC Oral Health Section of the Public Health Department, helped all students for free regardless of their socioeconomic or other needs. No one had to qualify for the service.

“Sometimes parents work and don’t have much time to take their children to the dentist, even when they have the insurance to cover it,” Barber said. “We wanted to help. The project didn’t have any income stipulation. Any student who needed the sealants received the sealants.”

Barber, a school counselor, has been trained as a dental hygienist and does that work part-time in the summers.

“I had adult patients who still had sealants,” Barber said. “You might have to do touch up on them, but some people had no decay well into their thirties.”

Anderson contacted the school principal with the idea of the program, and Barber explained the program to parents.

“Good health starts in the mouth,” Barber said.  “Sealants only go on the permanent molars, the very back teeth, which have ridges and grooves.  They are very indented.

The sealant fills in where the ridges are and makes the tooth surface smooth instead of rough and bumpy so the bacteria can’t go into the teeth and cause the cavity.

Sealants fill in all the ridges with a super thin layer over the top that makes the tooth smooth so the brush bristles can go and clean it off.”

The grooves in teeth wear down naturally, so after fourth grade applying new sealants would not be as effective, as the sealants can’t cling to flat surfaces as easily as they adhere to pits and fissures in newer teeth, she said.

At Sunny View Elementary School, several students receive free or reduced price lunches and many families do not have dental insurance.

The project did not discriminate based on whether families had a certain health plan, Barber said.

“We did have some who denied it even though they were eligible because they had a regular dentist or the parents didn’t want the service, but overall, we had a great turnout,” Barber said.

The dental hygienist placed 108 sealants, which has an estimated value of $6,480.

“This sealant program, along with our weekly fluoride rinse program, provides our students with two great opportunities to have cavity- free teeth,” Barber said. “I think it’s awesome that we are able to do it and that all our kids got the advantage of it.”

Students received goody bags containing water bottles, key chains, toothbrushes, pencils and tablets that can be chewed to leave a blue or purple residue where plaque sits on the teeth.

The residue shows where brushing needs to happen, but it can stain sinks, Barber said.

Anderson stated, “All school staff was very supportive and appreciative of the services. The students were outstanding patients, I just can’t say enough about how good they were for us!”

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