ST. PAULS — Kasionna Jones was a tad apprehensive as she waited her turn to enter the Colgate “Bright Smiles, Bright Future” dental van on Friday.
“I went to the dentist and they pulled my teeth,” said the 5-year-old who attends St. Pauls Elementary School. “I cried.”
She was in line as part of an outreach program by the Fayetteville Chapter of The Links Inc., which collaborated with the dental van and the Public Schools of Robeson County to orchestrate a dental screening for the school.
Jones was one of about 250 students who were approved to get their teeth examined. Her fear of the dentist all the sudden went away.
“I like that it’s not scary,” she said as she looked at the van.
Colgate’s mobile dental vans are 32 feet long, nearly the size of a mobile home, and feature friendly visuals to help create a fun and less intimidating dental experience for children. The van included two child-sized examination chairs and a waiting area.
“It looks like fun,” said Aniyah McGugan, another 5-year-old student waiting in line.
In the end, both girls walked off the van with a smile.
Before the screenings started, Karen Medlin, gave a presentation to the students about how to maintain healthy teeth. The children also watched a short film about proper oral hygiene.
Beginning at 9 a.m. the children began entering the van for their screenings. The average screening lasted no more than a minute. Each child was given a dental report card to take home to his or her parents or guardian.
“They don’t have the probes to find out if something is wrong,” Marion Gillis-Olion said about parents having the proper tools and knowledge to check their children’s teeth.
Gillis-Olion is chairperson of the National Trends and Services chapter of The Links Inc.
“We hope that the screenings push the parents to take their child to the dentist, especially if something is there,” Gillis-Olion said.
She also hopes that when parents tell their children that they are going to the dentist, they will not be fearful, but eager.
Dr. Yvette Stokes, of Highland Pediatric Dental, and Dr. Patrice Barber, of Alliance Family Dental, were the volunteer dentists present at St. Pauls Elementary. Both dental offices are based in Fayetteville.
“It’s just been a great, great process,” said Stokes, who also is the chapter president of Links, Inc.
After their teeth were checked, the children were given a healthy snack bag that included water and apple sauce, a tooth eruption chart and a Dora the Explorer electric toothbrush.
St. Pauls Elementary was chosen partly because of its size, having about 1,000 students, and to make sure events are spread across different schools in the county, according to Stephanie Locklear, the health service supervisor for the Public Schools of Robeson County.
At 1:30 p.m. the Links organization went to Rowland Norment Elementary School in Lumberton to give out Lessons in a Lunch Boxes.
“It’s important to partner with organizations such as the Colgate Dental Van and Lessons in a Lunch Box because those folks bring in expert information and great resources to provide to the children.” Locklear said. “Were extending that education and the knowledge and just using different avenues to bring that information to the students.”
The Links Inc. was founded in 1946. The Fayetteville Chapter was founded Feb. 11, 1951, as the 32nd Links chapter.
“Early prevention is the key to cure,” Gillis-Olion said.
Tomeka Sinclair can be reached by phone at 910-416-5865 or by email at [email protected]