By Curt Yeomans
Jonesboro resident, Trinity Collier, behaved herself all the way to the Clayton County Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS) on Thursday, as her mother, Latasha, took the youth to visit the Help A Child Mobile Dental Unit for a check up.
The mother and daughter parked at the DFCS office, walked across the parking lot to the unit and young Trinity, 5, remained calm. She did not cry. She did not fuss. She appeared as if she was OK with what was about to happen in the mobile unit. She was just looking forward to getting a new toothbrush after her visit.
It was a completely different story when they got to the mobile dentist office.
"I don't want to go in there," she screamed. "They're going to pull my teeth out."
The folks who work in the mobile dentist unit get that reaction a lot -- especially from the very young children who are visiting the dentist for the first, second or third time.
Summer Neal, a registered dental hygienist working in the mobile unit which visited Jonesboro on Thursday, said she occasionally gets bitten by children, who are nervous about the experience. "The kids have never been malicious when they bite me, they are just nervous," she said.
"One time, I burst a blood vessel in one of my fingers, because a child was really scared and bit me too hard."
Overall, Neal said the children are fairly well behaved when they visit the mobile unit. She said the staff will talk to children who are scared, and try to reassure them that everything will be OK. She also said the children usually calm down after the first, or second, visit to the mobile unit.
"We try to make sure they have a good experience," Neal said. "We don't have their experience to be so bad they are scared of the dentist for the rest of their lives."
Thirty-two people were on the schedule for the mobile unit, but the number ended up fluctuating as some children did not show up for their appointments, and other parents brought their children as walk-ups.
Help A Child Smile was founded by Conyers dentist Dr. Mark Shurett in 1993. The organization's mobile units go to counties across Georgia to provide dental health care to children who may have limited or no access to it because of finances. Children who visit the mobile units can get X-rays of their teeth, a standard cleaning, and cavity treatments.
The organization accepts a wide variety of insurances. Children between the ages of 4 and 18 may use PeachCare, and children between the ages of 4 and 20 may be able to use Medicaid.
Angelica McIntosh, 8, from Jonesboro, was one of the children who was at ease during her trip to the mobile dentistry unit to get her first cavity filled. McIntosh visits the unit every six months when it visits her school, Lee Street Elementary School, so she's familiar with the set up and how things work.
"It was easy because I knew what to expect," McIntosh said. "I was looking forward to getting my cavity filled, because I want to have good teeth."
Meanwhile, Trinity Collier continued to be scared when X-Ray Technician Ray Burns tried to create X-rays of her teeth. But she calmed down and gave no one any trouble when it came time to have her teeth looked at by Neal. Afterward, she walked away with a bag filled with goodies, such as a new toothbrush, toothpaste, a pencil and a sticker.
"I wasn't scared at all," said Collier after her trip to the Help a Child Smile mobile dentist unit was over. "My favorite part was when they cleaned my teeth and I got to rinse out my mouth."