SUBMITTED By MELLIE BURNS
CHEROKEE INDIAN HOSPITAL
Every year, Dr. Joyce Biberica, pediatric dentist at Cherokee Indian Hospital, and members of her staff, along with Mellie Burns, EBCI community dental hygienist, complete on-site dental exams at Dora Reed Child Care Center. The purpose of these quick tooth check exams is to identify children with urgent dental needs.
Urgent is defined as the presence of pain, infection, swelling or six or more decayed teeth. During the 2010/2011 school year, 24 children at Dora Reed were identified as urgent.
For the current school year, only three children have been identified as having urgent need.
“This is a remarkable improvement in the dental health of our young children,” states Dr. Biberica. “Many people work together to make these dental days happen and if I tried to thank each one individually I am afraid I would leave someone out, but special thanks goes to Tasheena Parker Health Coordinator at Dora Reed for her tireless efforts to make sure these children receive the care they need.”
According to Burns, “While identifying children with dental need is the focus of our time at a child care facility, other great things are taking place. It is our goal to make this as positive an experience as possible for each child. We want these children to feel loved and pampered while they are with us, so when they visit the dental clinic they will see faces they recognize. Hopefully by us interacting with them at school, they will feel less scared when they come to us at the clinic. This is the part of my job that I truly love; I never leave a school or day care center feeling anything but uplifted.”
In addition to the tooth checks and the interaction another important service is offered to these children: the application of fluoride varnish. Fluoride varnish is a sticky substance that is “painted” on teeth. The fluoride is then absorbed into the enamel surface of the tooth and will re-strengthen areas that are weak and also make the teeth more resistant to cavities.
These same services are offered at all child care facilities located on the Qualla Boundary as well as Cherokee Elementary School.