It's Dental Day for Head Start students


Kamorion Baker has his teeth checked at the Fearnside Family Services Center in Gainesville. UF dental school residents and professors provided dental work for Head Start students.

ELIZABETH HAMILTON/Special to the Guardian
Published: Wednesday, March 27, 2013 at 2:11 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 27, 2013 at 2:11 p.m.

Although a visit to the dentist can be scary for both adults and children, for 4-year-old Kamorion Baker, a student in the Alachua County Head Start program, it was fun.

"I'm having fun," said Kamorion. "The dentist was the best part."

Kamorion was one of 125 children, who, along with their parents, attended the inaugural University of Florida Head Start Dental Day held last Saturday at the Fearnside Family Services Center at 3600 NE 15th St.

The event included nutrition information offered by WIC, or Women, Infants and Children, a federally funded nutrition program, dental screenings and tons of information for the parents provided by the University of Florida College of Dentistry, such as the link between tobacco use and oral cancer and health.

Audrey Williams, manager of health and nutrition services at Head Start, said the children received dental screenings, a fluoride varnish to prevent cavities, dental supplies and the opportunity to participate in nutrition and dental care interactive activities as they related to teeth brushing and flossing.

Ladaeshia Washington, Kamorion's mother, said she liked the event. She said the interactive activities were helpful in teaching children about dental health, brushing and flossing. She said Kamorion was surprised by the large amount of sugar in sodas.

"Now he understands why I don't let him drink sodas," Washington said. "I like this program. I think it should be done every year."

"All these little activities are really working out," said Brittany Coker, a first-year dental student. "They're really learning how to take care of their teeth."

Although the students received dental screenings last July during the Head Start orientation program, Williams said this is the first UF Head Start Dental Day hosted at Fearnside. "We want it to be an annual event," said Williams, adding that Head Start requires that children have a dental home established.

"Our staff takes our students in a school bus to dentist appointments during the school day with parental permission," said Williams.

"We're seeing lots of kids with really good teeth," said Dr. Micaela Gibbs, lead dentist at the event and an associate professor in the UF College of Dentistry. She said overall, the dental health of the children is very good. However, some children did have very small problems that can be easily addressed. She said the dental screening results will be turned over to Head Start for follow-up with the parents.

"Head Start is very thorough with follow-ups," said Gibbs, adding that the best part of the event is the interaction with parents. She said parents received tips and knowledge to help their children have a lifetime of good dental health.

Regina Hopkins, who was there with her grandson, Tyrese Kirksey, and her daughter, Gerkaria Moreland, gave the event high marks.

"I think it's good for the kids because it prepares them and gets them used to being in this type of environment," Hopkins said. "Head Start is awesome and so beneficial for the kids. They're being challenged and prepared for kindergarten and getting the health care they need."

Ross Hauer, who was one of about 25 first-year dental student participating in the event, said the event was beneficial for the children and also for the dental students. "It is good for the children and for us," Hauer said. "It's good on-the-job training."

Shalonda Jordan, whose 4-year-old son is in the Head Start program, said UF/Head Start Dental Day is a good example of the way Head Start provides resources to children and parents. "Head Start is very helpful," Jordan said. "They help us all the time, telling us what's out there to help our children. I recommend Head Start."

Marcus Williams, whose 5-year-old son, Tranayne Williams, is in the program, said "They've been telling me how I can help him. "I'm glad we came."

Head Start, a federally funded program for children ages 3-5, offers a comprehensive curriculum to ensure that children are ready for kindergarten. The Alachua County program consists of 640 students.

For parents interested in enrolling their children, the following documents are needed:

— Child's birth certificate.

— Child's Social Security card.

— Child's current shot record.

— Child's current physical examination form.

— Parent/guardian state-issued photo ID, such as a driver's license.

— Guardianship documentation.

— Two different current proofs of residency, such as a GRU bill, cable bill, home phone bill, lease/mortgage agreement or property tax bill/receipt.

— Proof of income from 2012 based on income tax forms, W-2s and statements from Social Security, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), child support, financial aid, unemployment, etc.

For more information, call 352-955-6875.

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