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Bright smiles shared in Bertie County

By THADD WHITE

Bertie Ledger-Advance

WINDSOR – Time to get started.

Dignitaries from The Duke Endowment, the East Carolina University School of Dental Medicine and Bertie County Schools gathered Thursday to kick off an initiative that will bring dental care to all elementary and middle school students in the district.

The event, held at Windsor Elementary School, served as the official beginning of the Bertie County School-based Oral Preventive Program.

“Today we are writing history as we (Bertie County Schools) celebrate a strong partnership with the flagship School of Dentistry at East Carolina University,” said Dr. Otis Smallwood, Superintendent of Bertie County Schools. “We are thrilled to be here at Windsor Elementary School celebrating the launch of the preventive education and oral care program by this prestigious institution.”

Dr. Wanda Wright (right) of the ECU School of Dental Medicine explains the purpose of a new dental program for Bertie County elementary and middle school children including exams, critical care, and transportation that kicked off at Windsor Elementary School Feb. 13. A grant from the Duke Endowment helped the project. Photo by Amanda Bunch

Dr. Smallwood said the region is consistently plagued by gaps of service including critical care, access, transportation, and other services.

“So we are grateful to benefit from the generosity of ECU and The Duke Endowment that will provide comprehensive services to all of our elementary and middle grades students and help us close those gaps,” he said.

The ECU Dental School will launch school-based programs at Aulander Elementary School, Colerain Elementary School, West Bertie Elementary School in Kelford, Windsor Elementary School and Bertie Middle School in Windsor.

The programs will be for preventive services for school-aged children.

A team from the ECU School of Dentistry will see children at their school, providing comprehensive exams, x-rays (if needed), cleanings, fluoride varnish application and sealants.

The purpose of the program is to prevent dental disease in the children in Bertie County, according to Dr. Wanda Wright of the ECU School of Dental Medicine. She said it would also help children have access to a dental home.

“Dental caries or cavities is the most common chronic childhood disease,” Dr. Wright said. “Children from low income families are twice as likely to have untreated caries than children from higher income communities.”

Dr. Greg Chadwick is the Dean of ECU’s School of Medicine, and said he was pleased to be a part of the pending Bertie County Schools program. He called the program “scalable and transportable” and said he hopes it’s just the first of its kind.

Stacy Warren of The Duke Endowment said she was charged with working to find a solution to the ongoing dental needs of children when she first began work at the Endowment. She began working on the project more than three years ago and said she was pleased to see it coming to fruition.

Warren also said she was thankful the ECU School of Dental Medicine had a desire to get involved with the program.

“This is something we and the trustees have committed to for the long haul,” she said. “(Our goal) is for every child in North Carolina and South Carolina who needs services will get them.”

Other speakers included Windsor Elementary School Interim Principal Fannie Williams.

“What a great day to be a member of Pirate Nation,” Williams exclaimed. “This is an important project in Bertie County, and we are honored to have it here first. We are honored to pilot the program here at Windsor Elementary.”

Those in attendance were able to tour the mobile unit used for dentistry at the school following the event.

“Good hygiene habits – and especially good dental care routines – that are developed in the early years will follow the children far into later life,” Dr. Smallwood closed. “Through this partnership, we can help keep bright smiles on our bright faces – starting now and which will continue for years to come – a value which cannot be measured.”