Boys & Girls get tips on dental hygieneBy Josh O’Gorman
staff writer | May 07,2013Anthony Edwards / Staff Photo
Dental hygienist Christina Sweet is shown handing out toothbrushes to the children at the Boys & Girls Club of Rutland on Monday.Some of our area children will be smiling just a little bit brighter, thanks to an oral hygiene program at the Boys & Girls Club.
The organization received a $10,000 grant from the Vermont Community Foundation provide oral hygiene education and all the supplies necessary to help their members keep their teeth white and their gums healthy.
“A lot of these kids who come to the Boys & Girls Club don’t have access to dental care,” said Larry Bayle, executive director of the Rutland County organization, which includes locations in Brandon and on Merchants Row in Rutland.
On average, the two locations each serve 25 members a day, 90 percent of whom receive free or reduced lunch, which is one measure of a child’s level of poverty.
Monday afternoon, Christina Sweet visited the Rutland location with boxes of toothbrushes, tooth paste and dental floss.
“We got you guys some awesome toothbrushes, and for the younger kids we have bubblegum-flavored toothpaste,” Sweet said as she handed out the goods and joked with the members. “When should you floss? Anytime day or night, as long as you’re not driving.”
Sweet is one of about 30 dental hygienists who work with the state’s Tooth Tutor Dental Access program, an outreach program in 130 schools that connects children with dentists.
“They are trying to get students who have not been to a dentist to link up with a local dentist,” said Steve Arthur, director of the Office of Oral Health with the state Department of Health. “The hygienist evaluates the student and then does the hard work of connecting with the families.”
Sweet performs the Tooth Tutor program in Rutland City schools. The Boys & Girls Club oral hygiene program is not related to the Tooth Tutor program.
Oral hygiene in Vermont is better than across much of the United States, according to a 2010 study. One measure of dental heath is counting how many children have plastic sealant on their molars. According to the study, 53 percent of Vermont children surveyed in first through third grades had sealant on at least on tooth.
The Federal Healthy People program has a goal of getting at least 28 percent of children to receive the molar sealant by the year 2020.
“Mental health care, physical health care and oral health care are not priorities to many families,” Bayle said. “They act reactively. If we can get them thinking preventatively, we can get ahead of this one family at a time.”
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