Rim elementary students get free dental screening
By DOUGLAS W. MOTLEY
In a decades-old program that provides free dental health screening for all three of the Rim of the World Unified School District’s elementary schools, 616 students in kindergarten through third grade were seen and evaluated on Friday, Feb. 3.
This free screening program, which was initiated about 20 years ago by longtime Lake Arrowhead dentist Hugh Bialecki DMD, is sponsored and financed by the Lake Arrowhead, Crestline-Lake Gregory and Mountain Sunrise Rotary Clubs each February – with the exception of February 2020, 2021 and 2022, due to the COVID pandemic – during National Children’s Dental Health Month.
At Valley of Enchantment Elementary School in Crestline, some 350 K-3rd-grade students underwent screening. Bill Mellinger, president of the Rim school district board of trustees, who was assisting at the VOE Elementary School event, told The Alpine Mountaineer, “We have found significant dental issues here on the mountain. Some families don’t have dental insurance, but we are able to provide coverage for them.”
Also present at the VOE event was Bonnie Flippin from the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health. “The County’s Smile SBC program has donated toothpaste kits containing toothpaste, toothbrushes with brush covers, dental floss, Chapstick and a two-minute timer for each student because it’s important for them to brush their teeth for at least two minutes,” she said.
Flippin added, “Low-income families without dental coverage may qualify for the statewide medical program, and we give referrals to Loma Linda University Medical Center, as well as the Rural Clinic at Mountains Community Hospital, which offers a sliding scale for payment.”
Lake Arrowhead dentist Guy Giacopuzzi and dental hygienist Shellie Boydston spent most of the morning checking children’s teeth in a second-grade classroom at VOE Elementary School. When asked how her tooth examination went, 8-year-old Abigale Peachie said, “He used a little mirror to look inside my mouth. It didn’t hurt or anything like that,” she said, adding that she had a cavity when she was 4 years old.
When he was done ushering children into the classroom for their screening, Rotarian Mellinger said, “On Feb. 24, the students will be getting a sealant put on their teeth that will protect them from getting cavities. Sealant is very expensive, so we really need donations to keep the program going. Middle income families may have to pay for it, but those who qualify for the dental fissure sealant program can get it for free. It saves them a lot of money.” Mellinger encourages those who can donate to contact any of the three Rotary Clubs in Lake Arrowhead and Crestline.
According to now-retired Lake Arrowhead dentist Hugh Bialecki, the sealant program is being funded by HAFDRA (Humanitarian Aid For Development And Relief Agency), a local nonprofit health agency. Bialecki said 824 individual sealants could be placed during the Feb. 24 follow-up; those sealants have a value of $57,680.
“Thanks to our PTA volunteers, the Mom and Dad Project, the Lions Club, San Bernardino County Department of Public Health, mountain Rotary Clubs, Rim schools and dental professionals who donated their time and resources for this incredible effort,” Bialecki said.
Editor’s note: A pilot sealant program was held at VOE Elementary School on Friday, Feb. 10.
Rotarian Leona Chen of the Mom and Dad Project hands out toothpaste kits to students who had their teeth screened at VOE Elementary School. (Photos by Douglas W. Motley)
Longtime Lake Arrowhead Dentist Dr. Guy Giacopuzzi volunteered to examine children’s teeth at VOE Elementary School.
Dental hygienist Shellie Boydston photographs a student’s teeth while Rotarian Karl Drew takes notes.