Sandals Foundation, Great Shape brighten smiles at Priory Primary

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ALL 685 students at Priory Primary and Infant School in St Ann were given a greater chance at fighting and preventing cavities, after the Sandals Foundation and Great Shape! Inc, brought their school-based oral health preventative programme, also called Sealant Programme, to the institution last week.

A sealant is a clear liquid material that a dental professional coats on to the surface of permanent molars to cover deep fissures and pits on the biting surface of the tooth. The quick, painless procedure greatly assists in the prevention of tooth decay by effectively sealing out bacteria that cause cavities.

“Oral health is a very important part of overall proper health, and even more critical for children as they develop healthy habits. We must ensure that the proper dental hygiene is taught to children as early as possible, and where necessary, provide preventative services such as sealants to help prevent future damage to their teeth. Our partnership with Great Shape! Inc has, for the past decade, brought health care services to hundreds of thousands across the Caribbean, and that is something we are proud of,” said executive director of the Sandals Foundation, Heidi Clarke.

Principal of Priory Primary & Infant School, Dwight Minto was particularly moved by the effort and expressed gratitude to the Sandals Foundation and Great Shape! Inc.

“Almost all our students were seen, several tooth extractions were done — even teachers and staff members received cleanings. The parents are so grateful for what happened here this week,” Minto said.

In addition to receiving sealants, each student also received a toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste and lessons on how to properly care for their teeth, something that Ministry of Education’s, education officer for primary schools Dr Carol Dcaccio said is very important to teach children at a young age. The students were also taught how eating certain unhealthy foods could damage their teeth.

“This type of outreach has been phenomenal, considering that access to proper dental care is not affordable for many of our students. The volunteers are all great individuals, and our hearts swell with appreciation for the work they have done. The infusion of brighter smiles brought about by Great Shape! Inc 1000 Smiles and the Sandals Foundation has been a wonderful experience,” she said.

Dr Keerthi Vittal, first-time volunteer to Great Shape! was first introduced to the project on previous vacations to Sandals Resorts in Jamaica and St Lucia. She decided to be a volunteer and return to Jamaica with the mission as, she said, the Jamaicans were so warm and hospitable and the culture reminds her of her homeland, India.

“The team of volunteers here are very respectful and professional and the children are amazing; I just love them all. Before I begin a procedure I would explain why the abscess or tooth has to be removed; and how to prevent any more from occurring. Yes, sometimes they are scared but we comfort them. The end result is always the best; they offer the most precious hugs and smiles,” said ‘Dr Kiki’ as she was affectionately called by all the children.

During the week, 39 volunteers administered the sealant procedure on the students at the school. The volunteers also removed dozens of decaying teeth. The message of good oral care was also shared with all classes at the school. The Sealant Program was launched in Jamaica in 2010, led by Great Shape! Inc Executive Director Joseph Wright.

“Our project is a preventative one. Our mission is to go into the schools to reduce and prevent cavities, and using sealants is a proven and cost-effective way to do that,” Wright said.

The Sandals Foundation and Great Shape! Inc partnership has provided eye care and dental services to over 240,000 people in Jamaica, St Lucia, Grenada, and Turks and Caicos.

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