Prissy Helms, a dental hygienist for the Lincoln County Health Department, checks four-year-old Makaylaâ€™s teeth during a screening for rising kindergartners. Jenny Walling / LTN Photo
Over the past week, many rising kindergartners have had their teeth poked and prodded by the â€œtooth fairy.â€
Prissy Helms, a Health Department dental hygienist that teachers call the tooth fairy, has been making her way through all of Lincoln Countyâ€™s Elementary schools.
She checks rising kindergartnerâ€™s teeth for tooth decay and other dental problems to make sure theyâ€™re ready for school in the fall.
â€œMy goal is to get them to the dentist this summer before kindergarten,â€ said Helms.
â€œIt is a wonderful time because itâ€™s the only time I get to see parents and answer questions.â€
Helms tells parents about the importance of taking care of tooth decay in baby teeth. She also informs lower income families about health benefits available to them.
Earlier this spring, Helms worked with 11 local dentists to provide dental exams and sealants for elementary school students.
The dentists donated approximately $32,000 in supplies and services during February and Marchâ€™s Give Kidâ€™s a Smile program.
â€œYouâ€™re not only saving the family expense,â€ said Steve Austin, a dentist who participated in the program. â€œYouâ€™re saving those kidâ€™s teeth.â€
Dentists came to each of the countyâ€™s 11 schools to give an initial screening.
They checked for students in need of sealants, which prevent tooth decay.
After being given the list of students in need of dental attention, staff at the school chose around 25 students to receive the free exams and sealants.
These students were then bussed to dentistâ€™s offices on Fridays, a day dentists normally take off.
â€œWhenever you get about 20 kids in one area, you have two choices: to make it fun or it turns to chaos,â€ said Austin. â€œWe try to make it fun.â€
Many of the students chosen to receive the free sealants had never seen the inside of a dentistâ€™s office before.
â€œA lot of them are kind of in awe of the situation, and theyâ€™re scared too,â€ said Austin.
The dentists chose to donate sealants because of the process is quick and simple, and they create big results.
Some students received as many as four selants. Others only needed one.
Over the course of eight Fridays, 200 students were seen by dentists.
â€œThey had every room going at some of those places,â€ said Helms.
The students were also given goodie bags with each exam.
Local dentists who participated in the project are Richard Pence, Robert Schnieder, Keith Dedmond, Warren Hoyle, Michael Muckler, Bert Wilmer, Jack Lassiter, Todd Hamilton, Robert Cloninger, John Cloninger III and Paul Cloninger.
The Board of Education was informed about the success of the program at the April meeting.
â€œYou know $32,000 is a great contribution to the students of Lincoln County,â€ said Jean Dellinger, vice chairman of the board of education.
â€œWe should be greatly appreciative of a community who cares the way this community does.â€by Sarah Grano