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Region Stories

These stories illustrate how early childhood programs and services funded by First Things First make a difference for young children and families in communities across Arizona.

Oral health program helps Show Low siblings learn how to care for their teeth

Molly McGavock, a mother of three children, was excited when she heard that there was a program offered in the Show Low community to help her children learn to care for their teeth. 

McGavock was most interested in the part of the program that provided an educational component for the children. 

“It takes away the fear and stress for the kids when taking care of their teeth is introduced in a fun way,” McGavock said. “My son Alexander loved being read the story ‘SugarBug Doug,’ by the dental hygienists. In the story, Sugar Bug Doug builds little houses in teeth and it causes cavities. Even to this day, he will say, ‘I gotta go brush my teeth because Sugar Bug Doug will start to build little houses and cause cavities in my teeth!’ The story was read to him at least six months ago and he still remembers.”

The First Things First Navajo/Apache Regional Partnership Council funds the oral health program, which provides oral health screenings and referral and navigation services to young children and pregnant women, to ensure early detection of the signs of oral disease and the establishment of a dental home.

All three of McGavock’s children participated in the program from age 1 until the age of 5. Her son Alexander, who is 4, still participates in the oral health program, which is run through North Country Healthcare. 

The oral health program also provides parents and caregivers with materials and resources to use at home to encourage the continued practice of positive oral health.

“I really enjoyed seeing my son Alexander learning about positive oral health habits,” McGavock said. “Kristi Phelps, one of the dental hygienists, came and taught the kids about healthy habits. The kids practiced using a stuffed dragon and brushing its teeth.”The hygienists were very kind and patient with the kids, McGovock said. The kids asked lots of questions and the hygienists listened and answered all their questions. They were very professional and well seasoned to work with young children.McGavock was so impressed with the oral health program that she chose to have the preschool she owns and operates participate in the program. 

“It is valuable for families because you don’t always have the time or financial means to take your children to the dentist,” she said. “Dentists are expensive and this service is amazing for families.”

McGavock described the dental clinic visit where the hygienist and assistant read a book to the children about keeping their teeth clean. They bring coloring pages that relate to the story they just heard. The hygienist also brings a giant toothbrush for the kids to look and touch. After reading, coloring and answering questions from the children, the hygienists examine the children’s teeth. Information is sent home about any concerns found during the oral exam. The children receive a fluoride treatment and the hygienist and assistant talk with the children about how to continue practicing good oral health at home.

“I was very impressed with the follow-up effort by the hygienists,” McGavock said. “They called each of the families to check in and see if the children needing more extensive treatments were able to receive those. If not, the hygienists would try and help the family schedule the necessary treatments for their child.” 

The preschool teacher was happy to see her children and the students at her preschool benefit. 

“This opportunity opened the door for more learning,” McGavock said. 

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