A story in statistics: Over a 22-year period, two dental professionals have educated 10,000-plus children during Dental Health Month.
While the numbers speak volumes, the excitement they generate about proper oral hygiene among these preschool through first grade students is best explained in images. Beaming smiles stand out, as do tiny hands that clamor for a turn at practicing oral hygiene with giant toothbrushes. Their furry patients are animal puppets – cows, snakes, monkeys and more, that feature oversized teeth.
It never becomes old hat for Mary Turcan Majewski, EFDA, who in her 36 years working at Watkins & Medura Family and Cosmetic Dentistry in Dallas, Pennsylvania, began her efforts to educate youngsters in this format early on.
“The looks on their faces are just priceless, they think those animals are real. Their faces say it all,” said the licensed expanded function dental assistant from Swoyersville, Pa.
Mary, part of the duo from this dental practice who provide this outreach in the community, explained a bit about the 30-minute program she and colleague Jennifer Clarke, RDH, share at schools, day care centers and Head Start programs.
From proper brushing habits to insight on healthy — and unhealthy – foods, their message is well-received by children and teachers.
“A lot of times we’ll see these kids multiple times, 3-year-old preschool, 4 –year-old preschool.
When we see them the next year they know the answers to the questions because they pay attention. Plus, the teachers at the repeat schools – some of them 15 years running- are on board too. Some of the schools have little projects prepared: Teeth made of spaghetti, coloring sheets. When we arrive a teacher might be reading book to them about going to the dentist. They’ve gotten on board,” said Mary.
Aside from the toothbrush training with hand puppets, the spoon chart they created that illustrates how many teaspoons of sugar exist in food receives attention.
“Real things that kids eat on a regular basis, like fast food milkshakes, have 28 teaspoons of sugar,” she added.
“For a lot of these kids, if they don’t get taken to the dentist early this might be the only toothbrush they have. Some of those kids at home might not always have someone to force them to brush their teeth or watch how much sugar they’re eating.”
Perhaps that’s why in the 22 years Mary and Jennifer have been visiting the schools, word of mouth has evolved into a stream of calls to Watkins & Medura Family and Cosmetic Dentistry requesting their presentation to the children.
“They support us totally,” said Mary of the dental practice that offers each child at the Children’s Dental Health Month presentations a free exam.
Mary noted that she and Jennifer spend time in preparation – each child receives a gift bag complete with toothbrushes and toothpaste donated by dental distributors and manufacturers – including Benco Dental.
“I’m thankful for (Friendly Benco Rep) Don Sullivan. He’s a godsend. Throughout the years he’s gotten us so much. He’s been our rep since I started at the office, I’ve been working with him since 1980,” said Mary.
“I particularly enjoy my work with our assistant, Mary, during Children’s Dental Health Month. It is very rewarding to know that we have reached over 10,000 preschool children – especially the underprivileged – teaching them about their dental health and offering free exams at our office to those in need,” said Jennifer.
Both alumni of Luzerne County Community College, they women remain involved were spotlighted for their preventive dentistry efforts in a publication at the college.
“Years ago the children were afraid to come to the dentist and now they’re not. Most of the time it’s a fun experience for them,” said Mary.
“I love it. This is one of my favorite times of the year. They’ll send thank you notes with 100 signatures on the card. It’s so cute. It’s part of me, I couldn’t imagine not doing it.”