Four-year-old Deborah Agueda was afraid of the dentist.
It was her first checkup. So before he could examine her teeth and gums, Zachary Roach, D.D.S., put on funny glasses and suggested Deborah sit on the lap of her 9-year-old sister, Samaira Rodriguez, to make her feel more comfortable.
“I’m Dr. Zach, and I’m going to look inside your mouth,” Dr. Roach said. “I promise this won’t hurt.”
Deborah shook her head “no.” She drew her lips tight and wouldn’t say “ah.” She tried to wriggle off her sister’s lap. But eventually, Dr. Zach won her over.
“Your teeth are fine,” he said. “And you did great!”
Dr. Roach and Patrick Whilby, D.D.S, are both dentists completing one-year residencies at Christiana Care Health System. They volunteered to provide free dental screenings on Aug. 15 at Back-to-School Day at the Sunday Breakfast Mission, which provides food, shelter and counseling for homeless people and others who need assistance.
Christiana Care partnered with Westside Family Heathcare and All About Smiles, a private practice, to bring dental checkups directly to children who might not otherwise have access to care. This is the second year Christiana Care residents have volunteered at Back-to-School Day, said Susan Pugliese, D.D.S., General Practice Dentistry Residency program director at Christiana Care.
In all, the dentists saw 131 children. Of the 25 individuals examined by Drs. Roach and Whilby, six were referred for follow-up care.
“We are so appreciative of our partners in this great event to reach the kids who need it most,” said the Rev. Tom Laymon, CEO of the Sunday Breakfast Mission. “The professionalism and spirit of collaboration coming from the folks at Christiana Care shows how they live up to their name.”
Volunteers handed out free toothbrushes, toothpaste and dental rinse. In addition to checkups for kids, the dentists provided education for parents, advising them to schedule regular dental exams, replace sugary snacks with crisp vegetables, serve water instead of soda, and encourage children to floss daily.
“Kids should be seeing the dentist as soon as their first tooth erupts, or about age 1,” Dr. Whilby said. “If their parents don’t take them until there is a problem, like getting a tooth pulled, children tend to be scared of the dentist.”
Jacob Lovaas of Wilmington brought his two sets of twins: Jason and Jayden, age 4, and Ariana and Adriana, age 3.
Jason and his sisters opened wide and approached their exams with a smile. But Jayden, who had a tooth extracted last year, hid behind his dad.
“It takes a long time to get him into the dentist’s chair, but we know it’s important for kids to get checkups,” Lovaas said.
The dentists also helped one grownup, Samaira’s and Deborah’s mother, Sandra Marquez. Dr. Roach volunteered to examine her when another attendee told him that the young mother had a toothache.
“You have two teeth way in the back that have to come out,” he said.
Marquez said she was taking Tylenol but the pain was still keeping her up at night.
“Tonight, take ibuprofen, because it treats the inflammation that causes the pain,” Dr. Roach advised. “And on Monday morning, get those teeth taken care of.”
Dr. Roach and Dr. Whilby connected Marquez with the dental clinic at Wilmington Hospital Health Center, which provides low-cost care for people who are uninsured or underinsured. On Monday, her abscessed teeth were extracted, and she was counseled on how to prevent future dental problems.
“If the Christiana Care residents had not offered to help me, if they had not told me where to go, I don’t know what I would have done,” Marquez said. “They truly cared about me and my kids.”