Links connect students to good dental health

Published 7:04 pm Tuesday, March 10, 2020

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Jarron Jean shows Kathy Davis the sticker he was presented after his dental examination in the Colgate Bright Smiles, Bright Futures mobile van, which was at Capron Elementary School last Friday. Davis, who served as the program coordinator, is a member of the Suffolk (VA) Chapter of The LInks Inc., which advocated for the visit. — Stephen H. Cowles Tidewater News

Group arranges for visit by Colgate Bright Smiles van


Healthy teeth in children can make for happy and attentive students.

With this in mind, the Suffolk (VA) Chapter of Links Inc. arranged for a Colgate Mobile Dental Van to visit Capron Elementary School last Friday morning. Inside, Dr. Gloria Spruiell and Dr. Charmaine Walker greeted each and every one of the 125 students from both Capron and Meherrin Elementary. The dentists’ training and experience enabled them to do oral exams within a few minutes.

In between the patients, the examining staff talked about their involvement.

Spruiell said that depending on availability, she’ll do one or two of these screenings a year. Tempest Carew, a third-year dental assistant, has worked with the dentist before and came along because she was asked. “She [Spruiell] is committed,” said Carew.

We’re looking for students in danger of teeth problems that we can see with our eyes, and then we send a referral,” said Spruiell, who added that if either dentist sees a particular student is having a dental issue — or soon likely to develop one — they pass along a list of other dentists and healthcare providers that can more thoroughly inspect and treat any problems.

In fact, Links member and program coordinator Kathy Davis later said, “We did have some children have severe dental issues, there was one emergency. That’s the benefit of doing the screenings.”

A few feet away in the van were Dr. Charmaine Walker, who was assisted by her mother, Barbara, in keeping track of the students they saw that day. Also inside was Janyce Jefferson, RDH, MPH, who said this is her 45th year in public health and dental hygiene. She added that a mural of a dentist inspired her to make that a life career.

During the exams, a couple of students were visibly upset with the idea of sitting in the dentists’ chairs and having someone look inside their mouths. The staff and some of the Links quickly reassured them there would be nothing done to cause any pain.

Four of the nine LInks who participated in the event gather around the placard that celebrates the 1,000th visit the mobile van has made to provide children with an opportunity to have better dental health. From left are Shirley Barnes, Gayle Spencer-Ridley, Duanne Hoffler-Foster, Dr. Sonya Lee and Deborah Austin. — Stephen H. Cowles Tidewater News

Duanne Hoffler-Foster, the Links president, said it was important that the students feel at ease with the checkups.

Students can be the best advocates — peer advocates,” she said. “Telling other students the checkups are painless. This can be calming to others.”

The Colgate Bright Smiles, Bright Futures program has nine such vans in the United States of America, and is also part of a global effort of education, examinations and referrals. The mobile unit, driven that Friday by Antwaine Putney, was making its first visit to Capron. In the past, such vehicles have already been to Surry, Suffolk and Smithfield. As it happened, said both Davis and Hoffler-Foster, the screening was the 1,000th since the area program got started locally in 2016.

To learn more about getting a visit to your school or community, visit

Dr. MeChelle Blunt, another Link, said, “We’re so happy that Southampton County Public Schools has been very receptive. We advocated for being here.”