Students get free dental screenings

Published 10:34 pm Wednesday, March 29, 2017

More than 150 children hopped up into a dentist’s chair Wednesday morning, but it wasn’t an ordinary office visit.

In a van parked behind Booker T. Washington Elementary School, volunteer dentists and dental assistants took quick looks into the children’s mouths and filled out “report cards” for them to take home to their parents. The report cards told the parents whether the child was brushing and flossing well and whether they need to see a dentist soon, as well as whether they could benefit from sealants or orthodontic work.

It was the second year of the Colgate Bright Smiles, Bright Futures van visiting the school through the sponsorship of the Suffolk VA Chapter of Links Inc.

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“It’s been well received,” said Dr. Gloria Spruiell, a Links member and also a Newport News-based dentist. “We’ve been able to find some students that were really in need.”

Dr. Gloria Spruiell talks to Booker T. Washington Elementary School student Rashon Kitt about flossing during a visit by the Colgate Bright Smiles, Bright Futures dental van to the school on Wednesday.

Last year, Spruiell said, 152 children who had permission from their parents were screened, and 460 were educated on proper oral hygiene during a school assembly. About seven last year were in severe need of dental care, Spruiell said.

This year, they were on track to screen about 165 students at Booker T. Washington and also planned the school assembly in the afternoon. A visit to a school in Surry is planned on Friday.

Students who need to see a dentist right away were given a list of local dentists their parents can call. Every student also got a free toothbrush and toothpaste from Colgate and other extras from the Links.

“They may not ever have a chance to go and see a dentist,” Spruiell said. “This is a way for them to have that exposure and educate them and their families.”

Two staff from the Hampton Roads Community Health Center partnered with the Links for the event.

“We enjoy giving back to the community, and we enjoy working with the kids,” said Dr. Robin Langston of the Hampton Roads Community Health Center. Angela Wilson, a dental assistant, also came out to support the effort.

“We’re so glad Dr. Gloria asked us to come back again this year,” Langston said. “We love what we do. When we get an opportunity like this, we’re more than willing to participate.”

Spruiell said the school nurse, Patricia DeMatteo, had been very helpful in coordinating the effort.

“Oral health is just so important,” Spruiell said. “If you get an early start on oral health, it becomes part of their lives for the rest of their lives.”