Bellingham event helps low-income children prevent tooth decay


Free Sealant Day Bellingham

Jenny Salcido, 9, has sealant applied to her teeth by Bellingham Technical College dental student Christine Cobb at the Interfaith Community Health Center on Feb. 9, 2008. Volunteers around the state helped around 100 children receive free sealant at the annual event.


BELLINGHAM - Volunteers will provide free preventive dental care to as many as 100 low-income children during the 10th annual Whatcom County Free Sealant Day on Saturday, Feb. 22.

Services will include dental exams, sealants, fluoride varnish and referral for dental care.

Children will get that care at Interfaith Community Health Center, 220 Unity St. in Bellingham. The goal is to help kids prevent dental problems that could affect their adult teeth.

"Little kids with lots of cavities grow up to be adults without teeth," said Nona Groesbeck, a registered dental hygienist and president of Mount Baker Dental Hygienists' Society.

The society is organizing the event with the help of a number of partners, including the Whatcom County Oral Health Coalition.

Tooth decay is one of childhood's most common diseases, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Surgeon General has indicated that sealants - plastic coatings applied to grooves on the chewing surfaces of back teeth, where most decay starts - can cut tooth decay in schoolchildren by more than 70 percent.

"Dental sealants have been proven to be one of the most effective preventive measures for cavities in kids," community volunteer Mary Jo Durborow said.

Good oral health is an important part of overall health - and pain from infections hurts children's ability to learn, organizers said.

"They don't sleep well, they don't eat well and they're going to have difficulty learning at school. If they're in pain, they can't concentrate," Groesbeck said.

About 42 percent of children in Whatcom County have tooth decay by age 5, organizers said, and fewer than half have been to a dentist.

"We can do better," Groesbeck said.


Low-income children may receive dental care during the annual Whatcom County Free Sealant Day on Saturday, Feb. 22, at Interfaith Community Health Center, 220 Unity St. in Bellingham.

Appointments are required for dental services, which will be offered 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

To schedule an appointment for a child up to 18 years old, call 360-714-9010 and leave a message.

The goal is to help children who don't see a dentist every six months.

Event volunteers and contributors include dental hygienists, dentists, dental assistants, dental assisting students, and social workers.

People who want to donate money for fillings or supplies can write a check to MBDHS Sealant Day and mail it to P.O. Box 28817, Bellingham, WA. 98228.

Reach KIE RELYEA at or call 715-2234.

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