Free school dental program helping children smile

NEIGHBORS

October 17, 2001|By Heather Tepe | By Heather Tepe,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

CHILDREN AT Running Brook Elementary School are finding it a little easier to smile these days. That's because the Howard County Health Department has been offering free dental screenings at the school since January.

Dental hygienists Jane Casper and Kay Knabe come to the school two afternoons a week and one Saturday morning each month to screen Running Brook pupils, as well as their siblings. The women look for signs of tooth decay and any other indicators that a child should see a dentist. If they determine that a child needs to be seen, they will refer parents to a local dentist who has volunteered his or her services to treat children in the program, even if they are not covered by insurance.

"Every child should be seen by a dentist by the age of 1, but most people don't know that," Casper said. "Our mission is mainly to educate. I show their parents what's going on and why the child needs to be seen by a dentist and explain the ramifications if they're not seen. I also give the kids a toothbrushing and flossing lesson and talk to the parents about good snacks."

Casper also tells parents that they should take responsibility for brushing their child's teeth until the child is 8 years old. She said that if left on their own, kids will rush through the brushing process in about 2 seconds. "By the time they are 8, they should have the dexterity to brush on their own," she said.

Children from schools other than Running Brook are sometimes referred to the program, Casper said. "I had a little boy at one school who the kids were making fun of because of his teeth. I went to meet him at his school. He was the sweetest little boy," she said. "He didn't want to smile because his teeth were a mess. The enamel was pitted and stained."

She said that after a visit to a dentist who fixed his teeth, the boy couldn't stop looking in the mirror at himself. "He smiled all the way home," Casper said.

The screening program has expanded this year to include children from the Bryant Woods Elementary School community. Casper said the Health Department is considering including at least two more Columbia schools in the future.

Casper credits the generosity of dentists for making the program work. "I went to a Howard County Dental Society meeting. I told them if every dentist took a few kids, we would have enough coverage in the county," she said. "I had 19 dentists sign up right there. They've been wonderful."

Information: 410-313-2333.

A first for Longfellow

Longfellow Elementary School children Sam Cole and Marie Greaney have been selected to play with the Howard County Elementary School Enrichment Orchestra. They are the first orchestra students from the school to be chosen for this honor.

"Longfellow Elementary is extremely proud of Sam and Marie, especially because they are the first students from Longfellow to be represented in this orchestra. We hope to have many other students following their lead," said Joanna Carpenter, instrumental music teacher at the school.

Sam is in the fourth grade and plays the viola. Marie is a fifth-grader and plays the violin.

50 Plus Expo

For baby boomers, senior citizens and their caregivers, Wilde Lake High School is the place to be Friday for the 50 Plus Expo. The event, sponsored by the Department of Citizen Services' Office on Aging, will run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The expo will include 120 exhibits, traditional and alternative health fairs, computer instruction, and a job fair, fashion show and seminars on affordable travel and using a digital camera. Entertainment will be provided by the a cappella group the Troubadours from George Washington University, the musical comedy and satire group Capitol Steps, musician Orlando Phillips and more.

County Executive James N. Robey, County Council members Guy J. Guzzone and Mary Lorsung, state Sen. Martin G. Madden, Dels. Elizabeth Bobo and Shane Pendergrass, and assistants to County Councilman Christopher J. Merdon, aides to U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski and aides to Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin are to participate in an "Elected Officials Corner," during which visitors will be able to ask questions and bring their concerns to Maryland politicians.

Information: 410-313-6406.

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