“Welcome to our jungle” was the repeated theme recently heard by third and fifth grade students at Cherokee Elementary School. As the students entered the green room, they quickly realized things were quite different. The room had been transformed into a “jungle safari” complete with swinging monkeys, iguanas and hanging vines and right in the middle of the jungle was a dental office.
According to Mellie Burns, EBCI Children’s Dental program manager, “The sealant safari was designed to provide dental sealants (a thin plastic coating that protects back teeth from cavities) in a fun environment that students would enjoy. So many adults suffer from severe dental fear that relates back to a negative childhood experience. We want to try and eliminate that type of anxiety for these students. Providing dental services in a setting they are familiar with greatly reduces their stress levels. This goes a long way in establishing trust and helps the children to realize that going to the dentist can be fun”
Along with dental sealants, each student received a fluoride varnish application (helps to re-strengthen tooth enamel) and detailed brushing and flossing instructions. The students also had the chance to complete dental health worksheets and choose their favorite safari jungle animal mask and pose for pictures.
“This is the fourth year we have offered sealants at Cherokee Elementary School, and it is by far our most successful year,” said Burns. “We saw 126 students and placed 661 sealants in three days. These numbers are phenomenal, but the greater impact was the positive experience for the students.”
Christian Hensley said, “I love the special treatment.”
Alex Lossi remarked “All these people here are really nice.”
Burns went on to say, “Seeing the students so relaxed and having fun is the most remarkable aspect. We know we have accomplished our goal when the students leave happy. I am so thankful to each person that gave of their time and talents to make this year’s event so successful. And, my most heartfelt thanks goes to the administration, staff and students at Cherokee Elementary School.”
The following is a list of the agencies that participated in the “Sealant Safari”: North Carolina Oral Health Section-portable equipment, Danny Stafford and Kristal Cherry; CIHA Dental Clinic-dental exams, Dr. Charles Babin and Dr. Keith Grant; University of New Haven Connecticut-dental education and placed sealants, Renee Prajer (RDH instructor), Francis LeBlanc, Cara Pizzo, Jamie Messer, Crystal Shaw, Haley Camden, Samantha Brown and Jenny Nunes-dental hygiene students (these students choose to spend their college spring break providing dental services); EBCI Public Health and Human Services Children’s Dental-project management, scheduling, supplies and support, Mellie Burns, RDH and Kristina Hyatt, RDH.
– EBCI Children’s Dental Program