Helping Seacoast Kids Feel at Ease at the Dentist
School-based dental hygienists Trish Mayotte and Camille Fagadore love teaching Seacoast elementary students about oral hygiene and helping them feel comfortable with dental care. But they don’t do it alone. They rely on some furry friends to help them, which are stuffed animals who have large plastic teeth perfect for demonstrating brushing techniques and comforting kids afraid of the dentist.
Trish and Camille staff Greater Seacoast Community Health’s school-based dental program, which provides education, screening, and preventive dental care to Seacoast students. Greater Seacoast Community Health – which includes Goodwin Community Health in Somersworth and Families First Health & Support Center in Portsmouth — offers this service to students at eight elementary schools in the Portsmouth and Somersworth areas.
The first part of the school-based dental program is educating all the students about oral hygiene. Both hygienists use their furry friends to show the best way to brush and care for their teeth. Trish uses Daisy the Dog and Camille uses Bert the Dragon. Then the students get goody bags with oral hygiene supplies to take home.
Both hygienists say that the educational part of the program is extremely important because it helps the students feel comfortable about going to the dentist and it helps students to understand the importance of dental care.
Trish, who also does oral hygiene cleanings at our Somersworth site, loves it when she sees children in the schools who have also come into the office. She says it helps the other students to be comfortable with her.
“The educational presentations are a very important piece,” said Trish.
After students learn about dental care, the hygienists come back to the schools to screen students for their in-school dental care services. Screening involves an exam and a questionnaire filled out by parents. Eligibility requirements are based on lack of access to dental care and financial hardship. Approximately 15 percent of the students who are screened are eligible for services.
Students who qualify for the program are provided with a full cleaning, a fluoride treatment, and sealants if needed. Sealants are provided to help prevent cavities on teeth that show no signs of decay. Each student can receive up to 12 sealants in one visit.
Often students have extreme fears of seeing a dentist and having someone examine their mouths, which is why Camille keeps Bert the Dragon is visible during exams and cleanings.
“Bert helps a lot to calm the kids’ fear,” says Camille.
Camille said that she will spend time sitting with fearful students to help them get to bottom of their fears so she can examine their teeth.
“After we spend some time together, they eventually allow me to help. They typically leave with smiles and high fives,” she said. “There are so many challenging aspects, but it all makes it worth it to see the smiles on the children’s faces.”