Give kids a smile: dental office partners with schools

Published 12:10 am Friday, March 10, 2017

By Rebecca Rider

SALISBURY — No one likes a cavity — children least of all.

Cavities can cause pain that turns children into picky eaters and can even affect their education.

“If it’s causing pain, it’s going to be a distraction. They can’t focus,” said Natalie Burns, community relations coordinator with N.C. Pediatric Dentistry.

But the folks at Salisbury Pediatric Dentistry are hoping to intervene before kids get cavities. They want to give kids a smile.

“It’s a really good thing for the children because cavities cause a lot of pain and issues,” Burns said.

This is the third year the local office has participated in the Give Kids a Smile campaign, an initiative that provides free sealants to elementary school students. A sealant is a clear or white protective coating that goes over teeth, covering them to prevent bacteria from becoming trapped in cracks and crevices.

“Sealants go places the toothbrushes can’t get,” Dr. David Thome said. “So we take away the hiding places of the bacteria.”

N.C. Pediatric Dentistry extends the offer of sealants to all area schools — typically targeting students before third and fourth grades. By that age, Burns said, a student’s permanent molars have often grown in.

“So that’s our main goal, is to get those molars sealed,” she said.

This year, six area schools participated with an average of 30 students in either third or fourth grade per school. Burns said the office would have accepted as many as 80 from each school.

For some students, like Savannah Faile, a fourth-grader from Faith Elementary School, it’s their first trip to the dentist.

Savannah, 10, said she was nervous about the appointment. She’s prone to cavities, she said, and was worried that getting her teeth examined and sealed would hurt.

Her parents encouraged her to get the sealant, but she wanted to, as well.

“I know it’s better for my teeth,” she said.

But not every student will get a sealant. Students got through a short examination by a dental hygienist and Thome to make sure their teeth were in good condition. If cavities on found in the teeth, they can’t be sealed.

If everything checks out, Thome and the dental hygienists explain the process to the kids, trying to give them something they can relate to. Thome said sometimes he tells them it’s like putting on nail polish.

So far, the office has worked its way through students from three of the six participating schools. Burns estimates that 256 teeth have been sealed so far.

The process is free for students. Supplies such as mirrors and tongue depressors were donated.

“It’s just a way for us to also give back to the community,” Burns said.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264.