FLINT, MI – Students at Doyle-Ryder Elementary School rushed to grab a toothbrush and toothpaste Monday afternoon from holsters on a utility belt worn by Marshall Molar.
The large tooth with two legs high fived kindergarten through fifth grade students ahead of the announcement of $204,000 in funding by Delta Dental Foundation for two programs to help improve children's oral health care amid the water crisis.
Programs being offered through the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and Mott Children's Health Center include a school-based fluoride rinse program beginning June 1 for K-6 students enrolled in Flint Community Schools summer programs.
Chris Farrell, oral health program director for MDHHS, took the children through a quick lesson about fluoride and why it's important for them.
"Fluoride is in the water. It's usually in our tap water and it's mineral. It's in our toothpaste too," she said. "You can think of it as a special protector for our teeth. It's like a superhero."
With children drinking fruit juices or bottled water, Farrell told the boisterous crowd they may not be getting enough fluoride that may lead to cavities.
Children were reminded to brush their teeth two times a day with toothpaste containing fluoride. A dental hygienist will visit students once a week to use a fluoride mouth rinse for one minute, with parent approval in the program.
Beginning in fall 2016, children in the head start program are scheduled to take part in a fluoride varnish application for their teeth. The programs are expected to serve a combined 8,000 children in the Flint community.
A team from the University of Michigan Child Health Evaluation and Research Unit will evaluate and measure the effectiveness of the programs.
Teri Battaglieri, director of the Delta Dental Foundation, told students they were also receiving a book, new toothbrush, toothpaste, and reading and brushing chart.
"We want to make sure that your teeth are healthy and your smiles are bright and shiny," she said.