Oral health grant funds mouthful of prevention

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Messenger photo by Kristy Zurbrick

(From left) Mount Sterling Elementary Principal Lori Carnevale and the school’s librarian, Kathy Haynes, take a look at books about teeth and oral hygiene. Kathy Husek (right), oral health educator for the Madison County/London City Health Depart-ment, recently secured a grant to help schools throughout Madison County add dental health-themed books to their library collections.

While a child in America puts his lost tooth under a pillow, a child in another country might throw his tooth on the roof. Author Selby B. Beeler shares tooth traditions from around the world in her book, “Throw Your Tooth on the Roof,” one of several dental health titles that soon could line the shelves of local elementary schools.

Kathy Husek, oral health educator for the Madison County/London City Health Department, recently announced the department’s receipt of a $5,000 grant from the American Dental Association Foundation’s Samuel Harris Fund. The money is earmarked for oral health education and screening supplies.

“We get requests (from our teachers) for dental health books and videos, especially during Dental Health Month in February,” said Kathy Haynes, librarian at Mount Sterling Elementary School in the Madison-Plains Local School District. The school’s collection has a few related titles, but could use more. The financial assistance to make those purchases is appreciated, she said.

Husek is notifying all of Madison County’s elementary and middle school librarians of the availability of funding. Each librarian will be able to choose two or three books or videos from a list Husek has compiled.

The grant’s scope doesn’t stop at educational materials. In fact, the bulk of it will go to preventive care supplies. The list includes:

    • Toothbrushes, toothpaste and floss for appropriate grade levels

    • Brushing charts and other motivational materials for children

    • Toothbrushes with modifications for students with special needs

    • Visual aids, supplies for experiments, and picture books to help very young children

    • Mouth guards for children engaged in sports and other high activity hobbies

    • Oral health screening materials, including a halogen screening lamp

“The goal is to head off dental trouble. Untreated tooth decay is the most common untreated childhood disease,” Husek said.

Husek and Lexi Evans, the health department’s dental advocate, work year-round to help children and families take action and adopt behavior to give them better control over their oral health. This includes programming that reaches 3,500 children in pre-kindergarten through middle school, health fairs, and parents-of-young-children programs.

In February, National Children’s Dental Health Month, Husek travels to pre-K, kindergarten, first grade, second grade, fourth grade and middle school classrooms in the county’s public and private schools. Her presentations emphasize effective brushing and flossing techniques.

“I think of the schools as being in partnership with me because they share their education time with me so that they can treat the whole student, not just their academic side,” Husek said.

Lori Carnevale, principal at Mount Sterling Elementary, said the program works.

“We have had a lot more kids going to the dentist as a result of this program,” she said, noting that the Health Department’s work with students and parents increases awareness of proper oral health care. Carnevale wrote a letter of support for the program, which was included in the department’s application for the Harris Fund grant.

Established by the American Dental Association Foundation in 1999, the Harris Fund is a permanent endowment established through a gift from Dr. Samuel Harris. Colgate-Palmolive Co. supplied supplementary support. Each year, grants of up to $5,000 each go to educational and preventive programs aimed at improving children’s dental health. This year, 206 grant applications were submitted; 66 programs received funding totaling $300,000.

For more information about oral health care provided by the Madison County/London City Health Department, call Kathy Husek at 740-852-3800, ext. 224.

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