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In Defense of Tiny Teeth

KIND's Chopper Topper program brings the dentist to schools across Denver.

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It’s rare to find a kid eager to hop into a dentist’s chair, but it would be easier if you could tell them it would only take 15 minutes. That’s the plan with Chopper Topper, a year-round mobile dentistry program that brings a quality, positive experience to kids with minimal disruption to their day in the classroom.

In partnership with Colorado schools and Delta Dental, the Chopper Topper team will travel to more than 90 elementary schools in 11 districts statewide to provide basic dental procedures like screenings, preventive sealants, oral health education, and referrals—all at no cost to the child’s family.

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A trained hygienist will visit each school for an entire week, set up their mobile equipment in a familiar setting like an empty classroom, and see second grade students for 15-minute visits. This age group is the program’s focus because this is when children get their permanent molars. The visits, accompanied by age-appropriate tips from the hygienist, are suppoed to help start positive habits that will maintain these adult teeth. “I think one of the neat things about this is that it provides care in a place that is convenient for kids,” says Allison Cusick, program officer for Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation. “Preventive care can now be done in a school setting.”

Schools where more than 50 percent of its student body qualifies for free or reduced lunch have access to the program. Chopper Topper is an extension of the 104-year-old nonprofit Kids in Need of Dentistry (KIND), formed to tackle the issue of neglected dentistry in children whose families cannot afford traditional care. “The thing about decay is it’s preventable, but it’s the most prevalent of any childhood disease,” says Julie Collett, KIND’s executive director. “What we are finding in our program that more and more kids have sealants, which is a good thing. They’re getting them from someplace. I mean that’s our whole goal to have all the kids sealed.” Last year alone, KIND placed 6,532 sealants at 86 schools across the Denver metro area. This year, KIND’s Chopper Topper program has been bolstered by a $100,000 grant from the Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation.

For a full schedule and more information on the Chopper Topper program, check out kindsmiles.org.

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