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Second teen dental party planned in response to demand for care

| December 15, 2010 8:00 PM

COEUR d'ALENE - Noah Butterfield, 11, closed his eyes, opened wide and tilted his head back, inviting Karla Marshall to probe around in his mouth and hunt for decay.

"Your teeth are doing great. You've been in for care, haven't you?" Marshall, a dental hygienist on contract with the Panhandle Health District, asked Noah with an approving smile.

Noah had been in for care, but it was under the same circumstances as it was this time: specially arranged free dental hygiene services for children with no dental insurance.

Noah was one of about 33 youths with an appointment Friday for a free dental screening, fluoride varnish and application of dental sealants-typically $400 of services. Marshall and Carrie Busch, another dental hygienist with PHD, also provided referrals to low-cost dentists for further dental work and lessons on how to care for teeth.

The free dental care day was a joint effort between PHD and Project Safe Place, a multi-service prevention and outreach program through Volunteers of America that provides immediate help and supportive resources for teens when they're in crisis.

"There's huge need for dental care," said Brandi Smitherman, Project Safe Place program director. "Kids apply for jobs and have no confidence because of their teeth. Dental work gets overlooked as a major medical need."

The free dental services attracted so many teens that PHD and Project Safe Place scheduled another free dental day for Friday, from 2:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Project Safe Place drop-in center, 201 E. Harrison Ave., Coeur d'Alene.

"I jumped on this as soon as my wife heard about it through work," Noah's dad, Pat Butterfield, said. "We can't afford dental insurance and can't afford to get the kids to the dentist, but we want to take care of their teeth. Noah went to something like this last year."

Dental sealant is an antibacterial liquid that's painted onto the chewing surfaces of permanent molars. The sealant reduces the risk of cavities on those teeth. Fluoride varnish is a liquid coating a hygienist brushes onto teeth. It dries instantly and provides a protective coating of fluoride. The varnish releases fluoride over several months, which strengthens teeth and helps to prevent decay.

The "dental party" included mouth-healthy snacks by the United Dairymen of Idaho, door prizes from area businesses and packets containing a toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss and information about the Regence Caring Foundation for each teen. The Foundation offers income-eligible children up to $1,000 of dental care at the participating dentist of their family's choice for up to two years at no cost to the family.

Dr. Marty Hann at Cornerstone Dental, Dr. Cheri Bloom, Dr. Timothy LaBrosse, Dr. Ryon Schonfield and Drs. Kent McVey and Geffrey Thompson at Coeur d'Alene Dental Center donated 11 vouchers for the teens' use for further needed dental work.

"It was sad that some of the kids had such severe dental needs. One girl had decay in every one of her teeth," said Linda Harder, the manager of PHD's oral health program. "Another had decayed teeth and infection and the pain was waking her up at night. We were so happy to have vouchers to give out to these kids."

School nurses helped reach teens about the free dental work available and gave them the needed parental consent forms. This Friday's free dental day will follow the same process. Appointments are necessary and can be made by calling 415-5143 by 5 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 16. Parent consent forms are available from school nurses and from PHD and Project Safe Place.

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