Queets, Wash: WOHF Staff Visit the Bucolic Town
A Small Town Dentist does more than her share
Dr. Kirsti Turella, a Sequim resident and mother of two hit the schools in and around her community with a fierce tenacity. We met up with her at a Boys and Girls Club presentation in her hometown of Sequim in May.
She has managed to connect with school nurses throughout the peninsula, delivering oral health education programs to more than 975 kids since March of this year. Turella says, “I have little kids, and I’ve always enjoyed going and talking to their classes – there is a lot of need here. I find that I’m delivering the same message to kids and adults out here, and while it’s possible to make a difference in an adult’s life, I know that it’s more likely to have an impact with a young child who is just getting their permanent teeth. I think if we can influence them to make better choices, and it can make a huge difference in the long run.”
Most of her presentations are with the younger kids. She brings in puppets, fluoride experiments and disclosing tablets. Kids specifically request seeing her when it’s time to go to the dentist, but she’s not after patients. She wants to make a difference. She wants to develop relationships with the schools, the nurses and the kids, so if she does go into the high schools to talk about serious issues like meth and heroin, they remember her — although meth is less of an issue in her community for the time being. Turella says “I just had a patient who is a local high school student tell me that meth is no longer a big deal in their school in Port Angeles, but kids are still using marijuana, Percocet and cocaine, to a lessor degree. I was planning to talk with the alternative high school in Sequim, focusing on caries and dental economics. Kids don’t realize the cost of dentistry, and if you’ve never had to worry about something or pay for it, it doesn’t have any meaning. By reviewing the economics of prevention versus the cost of repairing teeth, I may have an impact witht he older kids.”
We are so grateful to have volunteer dentists we can support throughout Washington state. As a WSDA member, it’s free to borrow materials, DVDs, PowerPoints, and if you’re going to an underserved population, we’ll send you hygiene kits for free.
If there’s a Science Night, community event or school you’d like to visit, please contact WOHF to request support. We have presentations for smoking, drug use and general oral hygiene.
Not sure what you’d like to do, but want to know more? Please contact Launa@wsda.org.
WOHF Visits Queets-Clearwater School
“Drive up to the mile marker, and it’s there by the trees.”
The Foundation has been to some little schools in some ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ towns, but we’ve never received directions quite like this before. A colorful totem pole guards the entrance to Queets-Clearwater School. The kids all know each other, and the school is one of the few places on that stretch of ancient shrubs and forever sky. The closest Native Community Health Center is over an hour away, so we set to work when Principal Ferguson invited us out to do an oral health presentation. He explained that the Smile Mobile was coming out, and he wanted to make sure families knew how important it was to receive dental services.
Dr. Marc Tomlinson agreed to join the Foundation for the trip. Tomlinson says he loves his experience with the population out there but noted that without the Smilemobile, many locals wouldn’t get rudimentary oral health education and care. “We need more consistent fluoride applications and better oral health education — there is a tremendous dental need in the area. A third of the adult population in that area has at least one full denture in their mouth, and that’s sad.” He provided all the students and visitors with a free screening and referral chart, so the parents of kids with carries could make appointments with the SmileMobile. Principal Ferguson even arranged drivers to get the kids from the school to treatment.
Dr. Tomlinson says, “The children in the Queets-Clearwater schools have issues with diet and exercise, and even though the water is fluoridated many of the kids aren’t drinking it. The parents are poorly educated, so they’re not getting the oral health message to their children — at a recent event only one child had healthy teeth — the other kid’s teeth had either been restored or had lots of problems. Diet is a problem, there’s no local access to healthy foods, the Queets store has mostly junk food, and you have to drive a long way to Aberdeen or Forks to get to grocery stores with healthy choices.”
Between WOHF staff and volunteers, more than 2,000 kids in our state benefitted from oral health education programs last February.
Children may not be able to decide what they eat or whether they see a dentist, but we can teach them how to take charge of their oral health and give them the tools to keep doing it. It’s one of the most important ways in which we can empower our state’s youth.
Interested in volunteering? Please contact Launa@wsda.org.
Adopt-A-School Program at Work
In early May, the Foundation got a frantic call from a school nurse in Spokane. She’d spent the morning consoling a teary-eyed mother and her eleven-year-old son. He’d broken his teeth off skateboarding, and they’d exhausted themselves trying to find a dentist who would see them. It was a Friday, and they couldn’t find a dentist who took Medicaid.
Dr. Toillion responded immediately. He didn’t care what kind of coverage they had or whether they had any at all. Michele, a front office staffer at Toillion’s practice explains, “Our doctor’s priority is to take care of the child and get him out of pain — the ability to pay is secondary. In this case, the child was covered by Medicaid, but had he not been, we would have taken care of him anyway.”
WOHF staffer Launa Lea got a call from the boy’s mother later that day. She was breathless and almost hysterical from relief. “He’s smiling again,” she stuttered, “he’s smiling with all his teeth back in!” I heard the little guy for the first time, faintly, in the background, “Thank you.”
There are still families who aren’t covered. We are so grateful for our dedicated dentists who will accept emergency referrals, volunteering to take kids out of pain. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
For more information about how you can adopt a school near you, please contact Jiwon@wsda.org.