Tyler Meadows, 4, of Red Lion opens wide for Dr. A. Douglas Hunger, a retired Glen Rock dentist who examined teeth during the "fluoride day"
Tyler Meadows, 4, of Red Lion opens wide for Dr. A. Douglas Hunger, a retired Glen Rock dentist who examined teeth during the "fluoride day" program Monday at Red Lion Junior HIgh School. It was Tyler's first dental exam. (Bill Kalina photo)

Mia Melendez smiled wide.

Her teeth looked like cotton candy, covered in a special dissolvable tablet that shows up dark pink where she needs to brush better.

Mia, a fourth-grader at Larry J. Macaluso Elementary in Red Lion Area School District, was one of about three dozen students who showed up for a free dental care day.

She had thought she was doing a good job brushing. But then a dental hygienist showed her the plaque-covered spots she was missing.

Still think you have been brushing adequately, Mia?

"Nooooo," she said with a big pink smile.

Red Lion had its first "fluoride day," providing fluoride treatment, dental hygiene tips and a consultation with a dentist to students.

Heather Markham, 10, of Red Lion, a Larry J. Macaluso Elementary student, gets a dental exam during the district’s "fluoride day" event.
Heather Markham, 10, of Red Lion, a Larry J. Macaluso Elementary student, gets a dental exam during the district's "fluoride day" event. (Sam Kalina photo)

Many students in the district lack dental insurance, and so some of them never get to see a dentist, said Kathy Hunger-Sanders, who serves as Red Lion's dental hygienist. Hunger-Sanders organized the event, which was sponsored by the Red Lion Area Education Foundation. Monday's program might be their first opportunity to have someone look at their teeth, Hunger-Sanders said.

Mia's father, Edwin Melendez, said he has dental insurance but it's only good in Maryland. Monday's event seemed liked a good opportunity to get Mia fluoride treatment and to see if any work needs to be done. Plus, children got lessons in flossing and dental hygiene.

"They don't teach them that as much," at the dentist, he said.

Hunger-Sanders said some families don't pay as much attention to oral health as they should, and the cost can be great, referring to a 2007 case of a Maryland boy who died from an infection caused by an ignored abscessed tooth.

"That's really scary," she said.

More dental care coming: There are more opportunities coming up for families looking for dental care, she said.

In mid-February, 14 members of the York County Dental Society around the county will be participating in a "Dental Care Day," part of the 27th annual "Doctors With a Heart" program. Free dental care, from examinations and cleanings to X-rays, fillings and pain-eliminating procedures such as a tooth extraction will be offered to people of limited financial means. Participating dentists have varying requirements and services offered; contact your dentist to see if they are participating and on which day.

And on March 2, any child ages 6-17 can come to the York County School of Technology for "Sealant Saturday." Dentists and other professionals will provide free oral exams, cleanings, dental sealants and fluoride varnish from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. It's a first come, first served basis. The sealants, recommended in many cases for children, can help prevent cavities.

- Reach Andrew Shaw at ashaw@yorkdispatch.com