Our program covers two age groups, children 0-4 years of age, and then school age children 5-17 years old. The reason the program was designed in this fashion was because while the younger children are seen at local health clinics on a regular basis and can receive dental care and education at these times, children older than 4 years of age don’t go to the doctor unless they are ill, and would thus have “fallen out” of the program at a very young age. The program for children 0-4 years of age is called From the First Tooth. The program for school age children is called Brush at School. The Nuts and Bolts of each project are discussed below, as the programs function in a very different fashion. In total, we serve over 6000 children twice/year in the school program!
From the First Tooth
This program is run in cooperation with the Partners in Health medical outreach, which was designed to decrease morbidity and mortality among infants and toddlers in the region. Dental health education will be provided primarily by community health volunteers; these are local community members who work within their villages to monitor community health and disseminate information about a variety of topics, including sanitation, water quality, the importance of vaccines, and so on. Each leader will volunteer between 4 and 20 hours per month, and will receive toothbrushes and toothpaste, yearly training, and a tee-shirt and hat to identify them as program volunteers. Each village receives one dental model to aid in teaching how to brush, and is stocked with toothbrushes and fluoride varnish on an as needed basis. Each community leader (and the nurses and midwives of each township) attends a “Dental Health Day” yearly, in which they update and review their knowledge about dental health issues. This yearly meeting also gives local volunteers the opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback on how the program is working in their individual villages. Educational lectures are also given at local churches once to twice a year to raise community interest and understanding of the dental health outreach initiative.
Brush at School
There are 3 dental health educators: Rafael Pinnock, Polancio Dinkin, and Alberto Dinkin. Future plans include hiring an additional two promoters, ideally two women from local communities who can not only educate, but also serve as role models for girls at the schools. These individuals have also been trained as dental technicians and are capable of pulling teeth as needed on an emergency basis.
An educator is the person who does the actual work, biking from town to town educating children and teachers. The educators are also responsible for evaluating the dental health of every 5 year old in the district so that program success can be quantified. The educators are assisted by 3 para-educators, who provide much needed hands-on work with the children in the program. All full-time employees receive health and education benefits.
Currently, our program is up and running in all ten villages of Bilwaskarma and 12 villages in the territory of Andrès, which lies further south. Once the child enters the school system, they will move over from the From the First Tooth program into the school-based dental health program, Save Their Smiles at School. In this program, students receive a toothbrush and their teacher will instruct and direct them in daily brushing for 2 minutes (10 seconds each surface; each quadrant). Each classroom also receives a bucket and soap so that children can wash their hands prior to brushing (many of the schools do not have any water available to students).