About 2,000 youngsters in Ventura County are learning the importance of dental health and personal hygiene thanks to the dental team at Naval Branch Health Clinic, Port Hueneme.
Following up on a project he started last year at his own child’s school in Ventura, Lt. Jeremy Patelzick, the dental officer at the clinic, is visiting several preschools and elementary schools in Ventura County. Little ones learn about germs and the best way to brush their teeth; older students are shown the damage caused by cigarettes, sugar and not wearing protective sports gear.
“It’s important that we educate children on oral hygiene and nutrition,” Patelzick said. “These are long-term lessons that we can keep reiterating.”
Patelzick visited preschoolers at Naval Base Ventura County, Point Mugu, Feb. 14, along with Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Leilani Franco DeLeon, a dental technician, and Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Floyd Jones, a dental hygienist.
Their props included a dinosaur with 32 teeth, a giant toothbrush and a stuffed animal covered with fake germs that glow under a black light. As part of each presentation, the youngsters pass around the stuffed animal, then hold their hands under the black light, seeing for themselves how germs are transmitted and learning the importance of hand-washing.
Each child also went home with a new toothbrush and toothpaste.
The presentations at the Mugu and Hueneme child development centers are reaching more than 100 youngsters. The team also visited a preschool and elementary school in Ventura and later this month will visit Laguna Vista and Hueneme elementary schools, both of which have a high number of children from lower-income families.
By the time Children’s Dental Health Month ends Feb. 28, Patelzick figures he will have met with about 2,000 children.
The dental team started the preschool presentation by asking the youngsters how many times a day they’re supposed to brush their teeth. Guesses ranged from “A lot?” to “A hundred?” The correct answer is two.
They practiced brushing the dinosaur’s teeth with a giant toothbrush — “up, down and all around” — and they learned about flossing.
“My mom’s got some of that stuff!” said one exuberant youngster, eyeing the floss.
Talk then turned to nutrition, with Patelzick holding up a magnetic board with a giant tooth drawn on it. “Bad snacks,” like soda and candy, stuck to the tooth. “Good snacks,” like apples, carrots and strawberries, didn’t.
“The Sugar Bug likes Mr. Cavity,” Patelzick told the youngsters. “And Mr. Germ can eat your teeth too.”
That brought out the “germ-covered” stuffed animal that the children passed around and the black light they held their hands under so they could see why it’s important to wash their hands.
Sharon Nash, director of the Child Development Center at Point Mugu, said the lessons learned were excellent.
“Brushing your teeth, taking care of your teeth after eating snacks, the differences between good food and bad food — all of that is important,” she said.