Maxwell celebrates Children's Dental Health Month
Chief Master Sgt. Lawrence Kirby, Thomas E. Barnes Center for Enlisted Education, senior enlisted leader for Air Force enlisted education, reads a book to students at Maxwell Elementary Middle School, Feb. 12. Kirby was part of a team who spent time with kids teaching them good dental habits. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class William Blankenship)
Maxwell celebrates Children's Dental Health Month



by Airman 1st Class William J. Blankenship
Air University Public Affairs


2/22/2013 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- February marks the American Dental Association's 63rd Annual National Children's Dental Health Month and Airmen from the 42nd Medical Group raised awareness for proper oral hygiene.

The team, led by "Major Molar," distributed booklets to students at Maxwell Elementary Middle School, Feb. 12.

"Our reason for visiting the school is to promote children's dental health month and have the opportunity to make children aware of proper tooth care and take home good hygiene habits and dental care," said Senior Airman Kayla Kerstetter, 42nd MDG dental technician. "Part of the reason I joined the dental team is to help the kids and give back."

While students had a good time visiting with Major Molar, they were also educated on how to brush and floss their teeth properly and given tips for total oral care.

"We talked to them about plaque, showed them how to brush their teeth, reinforced good nutrition and even showed how much toothpaste to put on the toothbrush," said Capt. Nathan Fife, 42nd MDG general dentist. "I think the kids gained a broader spectrum of oral healthcare in a way that was interactive and interesting to them."

The theme this year is "Get a Gold-Medal Smile." With oral-related diseases affecting nearly 60-percent of children, according to the American Dental Association, the importance of early education and awareness can set up a child for lifelong success.

"I hope kids take away good habits such as flossing, eating correct foods and just general healthy habits they can take into adulthood," said Kerstetter.

Military families move frequently, creating a challenge for good dental health. Relocating causes children to change dental providers each time they move to a new location.

"Ideally, we would like a child to stay with one dentist until adulthood," explained Fife. "The continuity of care is very important and unfortunately in the Air Force, we don't have that luxury because of multiple duty stations during that time. It is critical for parents to take children to the dentist at each duty station to have the child develop a relationship with that dentist and be in a routine of proper dental care."

While the event was educational for the kids, their level of excitement was matched by the dental professionals who came to visit them.

"Coming out to spend time with the kids gives me a chance to reminisce on my 20 years in the dental career field and give back, making sure that children are aware of dental health needs that are out there," said Chief Master Sgt. Lawrence Kirby, Thomas E. Barnes Center for Enlisted Education, senior enlisted leader for Air Force enlisted education. "And it is fun for me to go back to my roots and do what the Air Force trained me to do-- put the bite in the fight."