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'Give Kids A Smile' screens 81 Nevis students

Open wide! Alison Nelson, a second grader at Nevis School, was among those receiving a free dental screening and flouride treatment. (Lorie Skarpness/Enterprise)

Nevis School was among those participating in this year's "Give Kids A Smile" campaign, with 81 children receiving dental screenings and fluoride from CHI St. Joseph's Community Dental Clinic in Park Rapids.

Dental therapist Lindsey Tischer, dental assistants Julene Reichling and Carin Arvik, and dental hygienist and clinic manager Melissa Fogarty all went to Nevis School to spend the day promoting dental health.

Nevis School nurse Renee Becker said they do not limit screenings to income-qualified students, but accept any student whose family returns the permission to screen form.

Tischer led fourth grade students in an group activity using their fingers and ribbon to simulate flossing teeth. She also showed students how to care for their teeth at home by demonstrating brushing and flossing with a puppet.

In the classroom designated for dental care, "hands-on" education was also going on, with students watching and practicing proper brushing and flossing techniques. Each student also left with a red bag from CHI St. Joseph's Health, who also donated reflective arm bands to wear when riding bike. Inside each bag were a timer and floss pick from CHI St. Joseph's Community Dental Clinic, as well as a toothbrush, toothpaste, mirror and brushing instructions provided by "Give Kids A Smile."

Dentist Jason Murray and Dental Assistant Paula Preston of Northwoods Dental in Park Rapids also participated in the "Give Kids A Smile" event, providing services at Northwest Technical College in Bemidji.

"This is a great community service event to diagnose and treat cavities for kids that might otherwise not see a dentist during the year," Murray said.

According to the Minnesota Dental Association (MDA), more than 1,000 dental professionals volunteered for the event at more than 100 clinics across the state, providing free exams, fillings and sealants.

"Preventive care is critical to maintaining good dental health and overall wellbeing and we will continue to participate in efforts to help those families who face barriers to accessing dental care," said Dr. R. David Resch, MDA president.

February is Children's Dental Health month, and according to the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly one in four children age 2 to 11 has untreated cavities in their baby teeth. Over half of Minnesota children enrolled in Medicaid have not received dental services in the past year.

In the past 15 years, Minnesota dentists have provided free care to more than 68,000 children and donated services valued at more than $18.5 million to Give Kids a Smile. More information is available at mndental.org.

CHI St. Joseph's Community Dental Clinic accepts low-income insurance (Prime West or Medical Assistance) and also patients without dental insurance who meet income guidelines. For more information, call 732-4436 Monday through Thursday.

SIDEBAR (VERY OPTIONAL)

Brushing tips from the ADA

• Wait at least 60 minutes before brushing, especially if you have had something acidic like lemons, grapefruit or soda. Drink water or chew sugarless gum with the ADA Seal of Acceptance to help clean your mouth while you are waiting to brush.

• Change your toothbrush every 3 to 4 months. Frayed and broken bristles won't keep teeth clean.

• Brush for a full two minutes, twice per day (the average person spends 45 seconds brushing). Setting a timer may be helpful.

• Be gentle with your teeth. A gentle brushing is all that's needed. Too much pressure may damage your gums. Be especially gentle where the gums and teeth meet.

• When done brushing, keep toothbrushes upright and let them air dry in the open. Avoid keeping toothbrushes in a closed container, where germs grow more quickly.

• Use a brush with soft bristles.

• Brush thoroughly. First, place the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the gums. Then, gently move the brush back and forth in short (tooth-wide) strokes. Next, brush the outer surfaces, the inner surfaces, and the chewing surfaces of the teeth. Finally, to clean the inside surfaces of the front teeth, tilt the brush vertically and make several up-and-down strokes.

• Look for a toothbrush that carries the ADA Seal of Acceptance. Either a power brush or a manual brush will do a good job if proper brushing technique is used.

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