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Area dentists provide screening services

Prissy Helms, a dental hygienist for the Lincoln County Health Department, checks four-year-old Makayla’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 “tooth fairy.”
Prissy Helms, a Health Department dental hygienist that teachers call the tooth fairy, has been making her way through all of Lincoln County’s Elementary schools.
She checks rising kindergartner’s teeth for tooth decay and other dental problems to make sure they’re ready for school in the fall.
“My goal is to get them to the dentist this summer before kindergarten,” said Helms.
“It is a wonderful time because it’s the only time I get to see parents and answer questions.”
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 March’s Give Kid’s a Smile program.
“You’re not only saving the family expense,” said Steve Austin, a dentist who participated in the program. “You’re saving those kid’s teeth.”
Dentists came to each of the county’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 dentist’s offices on Fridays, a day dentists normally take off.
“Whenever you get about 20 kids in one area, you have two choices: to make it fun or it turns to chaos,” said Austin. “We try to make it fun.”
Many of the students chosen to receive the free sealants had never seen the inside of a dentist’s office before.
“A lot of them are kind of in awe of the situation, and they’re scared too,” 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.
“They had every room going at some of those places,” 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.
“You know $32,000 is a great contribution to the students of Lincoln County,” said Jean Dellinger, vice chairman of the board of education.
“We should be greatly appreciative of a community who cares the way this community does.”by Sarah Grano

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