Little Teeth Big Smiles keeps children grinning

Story and photo by Airman 1st Class Hailey Haux
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

A young boy ran the toothbrush under the water then applied the toothpaste and began to brush his teeth in circular motions, just like the dentist taught him. On his tiptoes and outstretched, he could barely see his reflection as he opened wide to brush his back teeth.
“The lady told me to make sure I brush my teeth everyday and showed me how to floss with string so I have my teeth for forever,” said Kai Kramer, 9, son of Master Sgt. Randall Kramer, 86th Medical Support Squadron.
More than 100 other children 10 years old and younger attended the Little Teeth Big Smiles outreach program at the dental clinic Nov. 17 on Ramstein.
“This program was started because Ramstein covers a large community and we don’t get a chance to see as many family members as we would like,” said Capt. Erin McNamara, 86th Dental Squadron general dentist.
The event is held twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall. The program was started to ensure children are kept up to date with their X-rays and teeth cleaning. For infants and toddlers, well-baby exams are done.
“It’s important to teach young children good habits like showing them how to properly brush and floss,” said Staff Sgt. Misty Claar, 86th DS NCOIC of pediatric dentistry. “(Seven is the age) when a child should be able to brush their teeth on their own.”
Many kids grow up fearing the dentist, Claar said.
“It’s my main objective to help kids get over their fear by making this a fun day,” Claar said. “We joke with the kids and make their time here a fun one.”
She said different techniques at home can help children with their brushing behavior. Showing children how to brush their teeth and then positively reinforcing good teeth cleaning behavior is a good technique.
At the end of their visit, each child received a goodie bag with a toothbrush, dental floss, a sticker and a pamphlet of information.
“We have been getting a lot of feedback from parents saying that it has been very convenient to have this done on a Saturday,” Claar said. “Most parents work during the week, so it is great to be able to do this for them.”
Getting ready for an event like this takes some time and planning, McNamara said.
“A couple months out we have to coordinate with the schools to make sure there aren’t any major events going on that day,” McNamara said. “Then about a month out we start advertising for it and the week of we get the goodie bags set up and make sure all the supplies are where they need to be.”
If you didn’t get the chance to attend this latest Little Teeth Big Smiles event, there will be one held in the spring.
After rinsing his mouth out with water, the boy smiled big in the mirror, showing off his pearly whites and grinning from ear to ear knowing that he was taking good care of his teeth.