Mobile dentist visiting Park View School in Morton Grove

To avoid cavities and other dental maladies, Eric Tolkin of Smile Illinois offers the following tips: • Brush twice a day • Floss daily to remove plaque from between teeth • Eat a healthy diet low in high starch and sugary foods • Drink water with fluoride and limit drinks containing sugar and • Be sure to see a dentist at least once a year.

Nowadays, there’s less reason for kids to have gum problems or tooth decay. There’s fluoridated water, tasty toothpaste, attractive toothbrushes and dental care mantras that are as easy to recite as nursery rhymes.

And there is Smile Illinois, a mobile dentist that started in 2000 and services approximately 650 schools around the state.

“The program was started by two women dentists, and moms, who saw the tremendous need for dental care among at-risk children,” said Eric Tolkin, Chief Marketing Officer of Smile Illinois by email. “They recognized that, for a variety of reasons, these children were not being taken to the dentist, so they developed a program to take the care to the kids,” he said.

The mobile dentist will visit Park View School, in Morton Grove’s District 70, on Feb. 27.

Lisa Linke, school nurse at Park View, which serves kindergarten through eighth grade, said that the company sends the school the forms around November and that the school sends them home with the kids, who return them indicating how they wish to pay if interested. The company accepts self-payment, insurance, Medicaid and offers a subsidized rate of $67.00 for families unable to afford the $124.00 fee.

“The mobile dentist contacted the school,” said Linke of how the school got involved before she became school nurse six years ago. “They agreed to it, and they carried on the tradition.”

The school’s enrollment in the program has diminished over the years, though it could be attributed to a variety of factors including forms that may never make it home, changing demographics or because they only provide a basic cleaning and nothing more extensive, which would require an extra trip to the dentist anyway, though Tolkin is quick to point out that enrollment at other schools has gone up.

Linke noted that most kids go willingly and that some even go because they like the idea of a mobile dentist, though she recalled one boy who was reluctant to go probably because he was shy, and started crying, but they were able to calm him down.

“Surprisingly, there is hardly ever any crying,” said Tolkin. “There is something about the child being in a familiar environment, their school, and being surrounded by their peers, that puts them at ease. Importantly, no child is ever forced to receive dental care.”

During the 30-minute appointment, the students receive an exam, a cleaning, fluoride treatment and sealants as necessary. If more work needs to be done, they’ll the child’s parents and will provide a list of referrals if needed. When the appointment is over, the kids receive a toothbrush and a Dental Report Card to take home.

To avoid cavities and other dental maladies, Eric Tolkin of Smile Illinois offers the following tips: • Brush twice a day • Floss daily to remove plaque from between teeth • Eat a healthy diet low in high starch and sugary foods • Drink water with fluoride and limit drinks containing sugar and • Be sure to see a dentist at least once a year.

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