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Free Dental Care Program Called 'Chopper Topper' At Schools Keep Kids Smiling

By Kathy Walsh

AURORA, Colo. (CBS4)- It may be hard to believe, but tooth decay is the number one chronic childhood illness. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cavities are five times more common in kids than asthma and seven times more common than hay fever.

In Colorado, one in seven kids will have untreated cavities by the time they reach kindergarten. A program called "Chopper Topper" is designed to keep kids smiling.

"Everything that we're doing right now is easy and it doesn't hurt at all," dental hygienist Reina Sterling assured Kiara Lucero.

Kiara (credit: CBS)

Six-year-old Kiara looks cool wearing sunglasses and she's pretty calm, even though she's in a dental chair. The first grader is having her teeth screened for free at school.

On this day, the mobile classroom at Lansing Elementary School in Aurora is a mobile dental office.

"Eighty nine percent of our students receive free and reduced lunch which is how we measure poverty in our schools, so they just don't have access to dental services on a regular basis," said Jennifer Murtha, principal of Lansing Elementary.

The dental care comes courtesy of the nonprofit called KIND or Kids in Need of Dentistry. The organization's Chopper Topper program is funded by Delta Dental. They target kids just as their molars are coming in.

CBS4's Kathy Walsh interviews Julie Collett (credit: CBS)

The hygienist paints on sealants, thin plastic coatings. Julie Collett, Executive Director of KIND, explained the sealants shield the tooth from food and bacteria.

"The good thing is cavities can be prevented and this is one of the ways we can prevent them," said Collett.

This year, Chopper Topper will serve students in 90 elementary schools in the Denver metro area. And with the sealants comes education.

"You still have to brush your teeth," said Kiara.

(credit: CBS)

Kathy Walsh is CBS4's Weekend Anchor and Health Specialist. She has been with CBS4 for more than 30 years. She is always open to story ideas. Follow Kathy on Twitter @WalshCBS4.

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