KALISPELL - Toothbrushes and floss are being brought into first grade classrooms across the Flathead Valley for a special oral health education program.
“Basically teaching the kiddos about proper brushing and flossing techniques, nutritious foods that we want to focus on and limiting our sugary snacks and beverages,” said Greater Valley Health Dental Hygienist Jaqi Neal.
Greater Valley Health’s Dental staff has been visiting schools in Kalispell School District 5 and teaching first grade students the basics of dental hygiene.
“It's important for us to teach these kids about their oral health because it's connected to the rest of their body. So if they have a healthy mouth, they will have a healthy body and starting this young really sets them up for success in the future,” said Neal.
The five-week rotation starts off with a test to see how much the students know about proper dental hygiene and by the end of the rotation students' knowledge increased by an average of 21 percent.
“It's just so much fun to see how much they're learning throughout the course. I think it's just such a fun way for us to get out into the community. Share the knowledge that we have with the younger generation and then also let teachers and parents know what we're able to offer in the way of help for these parents to get their kids seen and get their oral health in good condition,” - Greater Valley Health Dental Director Kimberly Currie
At the end of the program, the kids receive a dental exam. Parents are alerted to any issues that may require additional dental work.
“I think a healthy mouth starts at childhood and is the best foundation for overall health later on in life,” said Currie.
The pilot program began last fall and expanded to two more schools this year.
Greater Valley Health hopes to provide oral health education to all first graders in Kalispell School District 5 in the future.