Content Dam Diq Online Articles 2015 07 Koolsmiles Thumb

Kool Smiles helps Peace Corps deliver dental supplies to children in rural Guyanese village

July 10, 2015
Students in Haimaracabra, Guyana learn about the importance of brushing and flossing during a health education session led by Peace Corps volunteers.
As part of its mission to improve dental access in underserved communities, Kool Smiles has donated more than 400 dental kits to nursery and primary school students in Haimaracabra, a small indigenous village in Guyana with extremely limited access to dental care. United States Peace Corps volunteers then delivered the dental supplies and demonstrated proper oral hygiene practices to the students. “Due to transportation access challenges, Haimaracabra suffers from a lack of supplies and resources in education and health care,” said Holleigh Thomason, the Peace Corps volunteer leading the effort in Guyana, a nation located on the northeastern coast of South America. “To see a dentist, one would have to travel two hours by boat to the nearest town, which is expensive and time consuming. Many of our community members don't see a dentist unless they have a dental emergency, such as an infected tooth that needs to be removed.”

CHIP and the dental lifeline: 4 questions with Kool Smiles’ Dr. D Ray Gifford
Kool Smiles releases oral health care lesson plans for teachers

“Premature tooth decay is widespread in this region, especially among children, but some people don't even have toothbrushes,” added Thomason. “Tooth cleanings and fillings are luxuries unknown to my community. We want to focus on prevention rather than intervention. And thanks to Kool Smiles’ donation, we were able to do exactly that.” Thomason, with the help of a local Medex (or nurse practitioner), organized a dental health fair at a community health center and conducted health education sessions in Haimaracabra’s nursery and primary schools. Through creative instruction, such as the use of music, Peace Corps members promoted healthy dental practices such as brushing your teeth, cleaning your toothbrush, and flossing. As part of the outreach, each student received much-needed dental kits, which included toothbrushes, toothpaste, and dental floss.

“At Kool Smiles, we work each day to promote good dental health here in America, especially among traditionally underserved communities,” said D. Ray Gifford, DDS, managing dental director at Kool Smiles. “However, we also recognize that dental health needs extend far past our borders here in the US. We are very grateful to the Peace Corps for providing dental health education and supplies in Guyana and throughout the world.”

“While often overlooked, good oral health is critical to a child’s overall health, as tooth decay can lead to malnutrition, life-threatening infections, poor school performance, and reluctance to speak, smile and play,” added Gifford. “Moving forward, the promotion of healthy smiles, especially among children, should serve as a principal public health goal in the US and abroad. Through collective action, we can truly make a difference.”

The dental kit donation was made possible by a sponsorship from the Benevis Foundation.