Smiling Bright in Cherokee’s Big Cove Community

Jill Malmgren, NCOHF Executive Director, (left) with Kristina (right) and the children of Big Cove

On July 27, America’s ToothFairy spent time with Cherokee kids at Bright Smiles for Big Cove, a community oral health fair for children and families living in the Big Cove community of Cherokee, North Carolina. The event was hosted by Kristina Hyatt, RDH, a long-time volunteer with America’s ToothFairy and winner of a Dreamstarter Grant from Running Strong for American Indian Youth.

Over the coming year, America’s ToothFairy and Kristina will be hosting a series of oral health presentations for Native American children and families, promoting the importance of oral health and helping children establish positive health behaviors. In addition to educational presentations by Kristina dressed as the Native American ToothFairy, the children enjoyed a coloring/activity station, educational displays, prizes and food. Each child was able to take home an educational activity book, brushing chart and oral care kit with a toothbrush, toothpaste and floss.

As a young Cherokee woman and registered dental hygienist, Kristina is an ideal advocate for children’s dental health across Indian Country. Unfortunately, tooth decay is a major problem for many Native American children. According to the 2014 Indian Health Service Oral Health Survey, 76% of American Indian children have experienced tooth decay by the age of five.

Kristina teaching the importance of healthy teeth at Big Cove

“As a Native American dental hygienist, I am determined to share my knowledge with our children and their caretakers to prevent childhood caries and the possibility of an untreated dental infection taking a child’s life,” Kristina said. “Education is key. If we can prevent childhood caries, we can also decrease dental anxiety. If we can reduce dental anxiety, patients will be more likely to keep up with regular dental visits. It will have a domino effect, with the goal of healthy mouths, healthy bodies and healthy futures.”

As part of the Dreamstarter grant, America’s ToothFairy will help Kristina produce an educational video for Native American children that will be made available to Native American schools and communities across the country later this fall. Together, we hope to bring bright smiles to children in Big Cove and across Indian Country!