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
At Save Their Smiles, we believe prevention is crucial. So we reach out to pregnant women and begin educating them on the importance of dental health, both during and after their pregnancy. That caring for dental health begins at their child's 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. This partnership creates better efficacy in reaching out to new mothers.
Dental health education is provided primarily by community health leaders; 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 volunteers between 4 and 20 hours per month, and receives 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 the Save Their Smiles team updates and reviews 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
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 Brush 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).
The evaluation of the mouth allows the program's effectiveness to be quantified by tracking the average grade of mouth in each village over time. Currently, our program is up and running in all ten villages of Wanki Mai and 12 villages in the territory of Rio Abajo, which lies further south.
This aspect of the program prevents future cavities through education but also the needed intervention of those cavities that can impair a child's quality of life.
The Dental Clinic
As important as prevention is, Save Their Smiles recognizes the need for intervention as well. Many in the region are in dire need of dental care. Every Friday Save Their Smiles opens its doors to the public for drop ins. People come far and wide for our services which include dental extractions, teeth cleanings and calcification. Teeth cleanings and calcification are free of charge. All children receive free dental extractions, while adults pay 30 Chordoba for one tooth pulled, and 50 Chordoba for any more than that (31 Chordoba to $1).