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Kids brush up on dental care at Smart Start Rowan program

By Susan Shinn Turner

Smart Start Rowan

If you’ve never seen the Tooth Fairy up close, we have it on good authority that she wears a pink and blue tutu. And a pink tiara. And blue wings. And a dazzling smile.

Natalie Burns played the role of a bubbly Tooth Fairy on Wednesday morning at Smart Start Rowan. Burns is community relations coordinator with Salisbury Pediatric Dentistry. The practice was part of a collaboration with Rowan County Health Department in a “Brush Your Teeth” program hosted by Smart Start.

Angela Hodges, a public health dental hygienist with Rowan County Health Department, conducted brief screenings for the half-dozen children who attended the event. They received goody bags with a sticker, toothpaste, toothbrush and floss. They also got to choose an additional colorful toothbrush — or two — to take home with them courtesy of Salisbury Pediatric Dentistry.

“We know about visiting the pediatrician, but sometimes we forget about going to the dentist at this age,” said Mary Burridge, family support manager for Smart Start Rowan, who put together the event. Smart Start Rowan serves all children in Rowan County ages birth to 5.

“How many times a day should you brush your teeth?” she asked the children, before holding up two fingers. “When we wake up right after breakfast, we want to brush our teeth, and at night before we go to sleep, we want to brush our teeth again. If our teeth are touching, we want to floss them once a day.”

Same for grown-ups, Burns noted.

She talked with the children about the right way to brush their teeth, up and down, left to right, and then rinse and swish, swish, swish — spit all those germs into the sink.

To reinforce this idea, Burns read two children’s books about brushing your teeth. The children especially loved a pop-up book, “Brush Your Teeth Please,” which showed animals brushing their teeth. On each page, Burns “helped” the animals brush and floss by manipulating the tabs.

Then, it was time with a visit with Farley, a plush “Flossasaurus” dinosaur. With an oversized yellow toothbrush, Burns demonstrated proper brushing technique on Farley’s human-sized teeth, and then the children took their turn brushing Farley’s teeth — and tongue. Don’t forget the tongue, Burns said.

At first the children were shy, but warmed up quickly and did a good job brushing Farley’s teeth. Kareem Flores Rosas, 4, grinned up at his mother, Lizzbeth, when he completed the task.

Burns also taught the children and their caregivers a fun chant and dance: “Up like a roller coaster, down like the rain, back and forth like a choo-choo train!”

“So how many times are we gonna brush our teeth every day?” Burns asked.

“Two times!” the group chorused.

And visit the dentist twice a year, Burns added.

Same for grown-ups.

As soon as you have teeth, you can visit the dentist, Hodges said.

“We have just started a Baby Oral Health Program to help prevent cavities in young children,” Hodges said. She encourages parents never to put babies to bed with anything other than water in their bottles.

“We see a lot of cavities from milk or juice in bottles,” she said, “especially with their front teeth.”

Hodges also suggested giving babies no more than 4-6 ounces of juice a day — and that should be diluted with water.

The caregivers who visited were delighted with the program.

“We were here checking out Smart Start Rowan and we just happened to meet the Tooth Fairy in the parking lot,” said Holly Maxwell, a former teacher and stay-at-home mom to Salem, 3, and Jude, 18 months. Big sister Piper is a kindergartener this year. Her siblings picked out a goody bag for her.

“I wish I would have known this resource was available when I was teaching,” Maxwell said. “I think a lot of our friends would like to come here for play dates.”

Smart Start Rowan has a play room, along with an Early Learning Resource Center from which parents and teachers can check out bins full of books, games and toys. Cost to use the center is just $10 a year. The bin on display at the “Brush Your Teeth” was full of books about going to the dentist, along with an oversized toothbrush and oversized set of teeth to practice brushing.

Sherry Trawick, a friend of Maxwell’s from church, also attended with Hadley Misenheimer, an 18-month-old for whom she’s a nanny. This was also her first visit to Smart Start Rowan.

“We’re always looking for stuff to do,” Trawick said. “I’m gonna pay my $10 to the resource center and check out stuff.”

At 2½, twins Anna and Ava Gill are at the halfway mark of their time with Smart Start Rowan. They’re veterans of many Smart Start Rowan events here and at Rowan Public Library.

“They love coming to Smart Start,” said their mom, Elizabeth. “They were so excited when they woke up this morning. They asked, ‘Is it time to see the Tooth Fairy?’ ”

Their grandmother, Janet Gill, said the girls already felt comfortable at the dentist.

As the girls picked out toothbrushes, Burns reminded them to change their toothbrushes every three months, or after they get sick. Then a toothbrush slipped out of Ava’s hand.

“Or when they drop them!” their mom quipped.

Smart Start Rowan is a United Way member agency.

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