[ The Real McCoy Online Home ]                                                                                                                 February 27, 2009

Children learn about proper dental care

By Rob Schuette, The Real McCoy Staff

Children in the Fort McCoy Child Development Center Preschool Class learned firsthand from Fort McCoy dental personnel the importance of having healthy teeth at a dental fair presentation during National Children’s Dental Health Month in February.

Photo: Lt. Col. David Schlaack, a Fort McCoy dentist, shows children how to brush their teeth, while Staff Sgt. Michelle Housen (left) and Candace Hendersin watch. (Photo by Rob Schuette)
Lt. Col. David Schlaack, a Fort McCoy dentist, shows children how to brush their teeth, while Staff Sgt. Michelle Housen (left) and Candace Hendersin watch. (Photo by Rob Schuette)

Sgt. 1st Class Alexis Brown of the Fort McCoy Dental Readiness Center said the organization planned the event to help support Soldiers and their families and to help celebrate the 60th anniversary of the observance, which began in 1949.

"Our thing is, we take care of the Soldiers so why not take care of their families, as well," Brown said.

Lt. Col. David Schlaack, Staff Sgt. Michelle Housen, and Candace Hendersin from the Fort McCoy Dental Readiness Center were the presenters. Schlaack is a dentist, and Housen is a dental assistant. Hendersin is a dental hygienist.

They showed children the proper brushing/flossing techniques and also talked about proper nutrition to help maintain cavity-free teeth. Children were shown the proper way to brush their teeth on a plush dinosaur character, "Dino the Dental Dinosaur," and on an oversized replica of gums and teeth.

"Many children have a tendency to be frightened when making their first dental visit," Schlaack said. "We hope that by incorporating some fun into the experience, children will be less apprehensive about going to a dentist."

The dental personnel mixed in a question-and-answer session to help explain the importance of taking proper care of their teeth. While one member of the class answered "a dentist takes out teeth" when asked what a dentist does, the facts are that a dentist does a lot more and is very focused on taking proper care of teeth so they last for a long time, Schlaack said.

Children learned they have 20 teeth while adults have 32 teeth. Everyone should brush their teeth in the morning and at night and especially after having a sugary treat, such as a lollipop or a can of soda, Hendersin said. Otherwise, they may develop cavities or a toothache. Flossing also is important.

"Dentists help people take care of their teeth so they can eat well, smile and be happy," Schlaack said. "Hopefully, you’ll have your teeth until you’re 81 or even 100."

Hendersin noted the goal of the dental team is for everyone to have teeth that are strong and healthy.

Eating a good diet, including such food as apples, can help protect teeth. Because teeth are made of bones, drinking milk can help make them strong so people don’t get cavities.

"Dentists and hygienists get their jobs by going to school for a very long time," Hendersin told the children. "Brushing and flossing are important. When you’re done it’s good to have mom and dad check to ensure you get all your teeth."

Betsy Tadisch, a program assistant for Fort McCoy Child, Youth and School Services, said the children, who range in age from 3-to 5-years-old, were very excited and enthusiastic about the dental team’s visit.

"They will remember what they’ve heard," Tadisch said. "They’ll play act they’re a dentist or a hygienist taking care of teeth. Every time one of them (the team) comes over to visit their child or the children here, they’ll have a lot of questions to ask them."

Fort McCoy Garrison Command Sergeant Major Command Sgt. Maj. M. Kevin Dubois, who attended the dental fair, said the Dental Readiness Center also plays a vital role in Soldier readiness.

"The staff and Soldiers assigned to the Dental Readiness Center provide an invaluable service to Fort McCoy by ensuring that we are deployable in accordance with Army Medical Regulations," Dubois said.

Each child received a bag filled with treats, including a toothbrush kit, stickers and educational materials they could take home and share with their parents. One of the items that drew the children’s particular attention was a miniature plastic tooth treasure chest where they can enclose the first tooth they lose and put it under their pillow to encourage a visit from the "Tooth Fairy."

The American Dental Association sponsors National Children’s Dental Health Month. The month is used to raise awareness about the importance of oral health.

Developing good habits at an early age and scheduling regular dental visits helps children get a good start on a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums.

The program also serves as good support to the Army Family Covenant where supporting a Soldier’s family helps increase the readiness of Soldiers, Brown said. That’s because they know even if they can’t be present at home because of their duty their family members are being taken care of.

For more information about dental health in the Fort McCoy community, military personnel can contact Brown at 608-388-2719.


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