February 28, 2007 | By: Laura Skillman

The Tooth Fairy is spreading the word to preschoolers and kindergarteners across Webster County that dental care is an important part of their daily routine.

The Tooth Fairy really is Tina Menser, Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program assistant at the Webster County office of the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service. Menser began promoting dental care this month and she hopes to get the word to young people across the county and, through them, to their parents as well.

Kentucky ranks poorly in many areas of health care and dental care is one of those, she said. To get the young people’s attention, Menser made herself some wings, found a tiara and a nice frilly dress to complete her transformation to the Tooth Fairy. Assisting Menser on her school visits is a large-mouthed gorilla puppet named MoJo who likes students to brush his teeth.

“At a young age, children are very impressionable and it’s easy to affect them,” she said. “Hopefully, they can carry that on to adults.”

Proper brushing techniques, flossing and healthy snacks are part of the educational program. The goal is to encourage proper dental care along with healthy snacking.

“I know that obesity is rampant and I discourage excess soft drink use,” she said. “There is a correlation between the amount of soft drinks a child consumes and decay in teeth. So, I have a sugar display to show them how much is in a bottle of soft drink, and I encourage them to drink water especially at night.”

Patty Dennis, program assistant for the Webster County Family Resource Center, said the Tooth Fairy’s visit is a great idea.

“It teaches them dental hygiene, and with this being dental health month, I think it’s a great time to start,” she said. 

Menser said she knows from experience the importance for proper dental care and the challenge people on limited income can have in obtaining care. The program is one she felt could have an impact.

Trover Clinic’s West Area Health Education Center provided a free toothbrush and toothpaste for each child. In addition, children took home a newsletter to their parents that includes brushing and flossing tips and information about nearby Henderson Community College’s dental hygiene clinic.

“I believe one of the biggest barriers we face is knowing what resources are available and how to obtain those resources,” Menser said, who primarily works with limited resource families. “While most children from a limited resource family are eligible for some form of dental care, it is more difficult for adults. Helping them to find resources is important.”


Tina Menser, 270-639-9011