Preschoolers see the dentist for the first time
Truckee-dentist Dr. Robert Colpitts sits cross-legged in a circle with 20 children at Truckee Pines Preschool and explains the importance of tooth care.
“Most of these children have never been to the dentist,” site supervisor Stephanie Castleman quietly explains from outside the circle.
It has taken years for the Head Start-funded preschool to find a local dentist who will provide free dental examinations, said Angie Lumley, health services coordinator for the Placer Community Action Council, the oversight agency for the preschool. In past years, they’ve had to bring in a dentist from Sacramento.
This year, however, Colpitts said he would volunteer.
“We’re fortunate that he’s willing to take time from his practice to come out to a place where [the children] feel comfortable, so their first visit to the dentist is a positive one,” Lumley said.
Sometimes, Castleman added, parents are fearful of the dentist, so those fears are passed down to the children.
Colpitts speaks quietly to the children to put them at ease before he examines their teeth for the first time. He tells them why teeth are important – for eating and smiling – and how to properly care for their teeth.
Each morning, the preschoolers brush their teeth when they get to school (a Head Start mandate). However, Castleman said the biggest issue with these students is “bottle rot,” or decay that occurs when children are put to sleep with bottles in their mouths. Bottle rot can lead to permanent damage to adult teeth and speech problems.
Colpitts examined the children individually and prioritized each child by how urgent the child’s need is for dental care. Then, the preschool sends the students to a MediCal approved dentist. If the family doesn’t qualify for MediCal, then Head Start pays for the dental visit.
The 10-year-old Truckee Pines Preschool is paid for by Head Start, a federal- and state-funded program. The program not only provides pre-kindergarten education to students, but also health and social services to their families. The classroom is staffed Castleman, a bilingual aid and three credentialed teachers.
Head Start preschool programs have been in Tahoe for roughly 20 years.
For more information on Truckee Pines Preschool, call 587-3062. The Truckee Pines Child Development Center is located on 10100 Estates Drive in Truckee.
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