Story by Kathryn Trogdon, The Sanford Herald
SANFORD - More than 65 children learned how to "defeat monster mouth" Saturday at a dental and health fair in Sanford that educated children about engaging in healthy habits from their head to their toes.
The theme of the event, held at Central Carolina Community College's dental building on Vance Street, was "Monster Mouth University" -- where children up to 14 years old take "classes" in medicine, dentistry, nutrition and more. The event, which is aimed at Harnett, Lee and Chatham counties, is part of the American Dental Society's "Give Kids a Smile" campaign.
"Our goal is to reach out to children who are ... dentally uninsured," said Dr. Ray Tseng, a Cary pediatric dentist and one of the event's organizers. "They sort of fall into what we call the doughnut hole. They make too much to qualify for federal assistance, but they don't make enough to purchase their own dental insurance."
Tseng said this year's event was unique because there were numerous doctors who wanted to donate their services to the children who participated to help them with additional needs, including extractions and fillings.
"So for all the kids that we see today that have any treatment needs, we are going to try to help the parents accomplish them either at a very, very low cost or no cost," he said.
More than 200 volunteers assisted at the event, including students from Methodist University, UNC-Chapel Hill, CCCC, N.C. State University, N.C. Central University and Campbell University. The Sanford police and fire departments also brought a patrol car and fire truck for the children and performed free car seat checks for the parents.
Besides getting their teeth cleaned, children were also able to visit other health stations that focused on their overall health, including an exercise station and a nutrition station.
"It's also about eating well and growing a healthy body and being physically active," Tseng said. "We feel like this is the new model for what we'd like to see as health care evolves."
There was even a station where children could play "doctor."
"The kids are going to look in their parent's mouths so they are mimicking being a dentist," Vicky Wesner, CCCC dental hygiene and dental assisting program director, said. "It's kind of putting them in the professional shoes."
At the end of the day, children were able to go to a "graduation party," featuring music, face painting and balloon animals, in order to make the experience even more fun.
After she got her teeth cleaned, 9-year-old Julie Jamison, daughter of Jennifer Jamison of Sanford, said her teeth felt good. While she enjoyed when her dentist used "Mr. Squirty" and "Mr. Slurpy" to squirt water in her mouth and collect it back up, she was ready to go to the party room.
"I'm looking forward to doing the face painting," she said, adding that she wanted a butterfly painted on her face.
Although volunteers made the event a fun learning experience for children, the event also focused on educating the parents.
"We're not just sending the kids in here and out the door, the parents are involved too," Wesner said. "Hopefully, the parents will help the children have better care, you know, brush better and get more routine visits with a dental office."
Photo by Kathryn Trogdon at The Sanford Herald - Stephanie Damery of Central Carolina Community College cleans 9-year-old Sanford resident Julie Jamison’s teeth with what she calls “Mr. Squirty” and “Mr. Slurpy” to make the experience fun for children.