Dentist helps elementary students learn value of oral hygiene

January 29, 2014 

Igot to spend a fascinating few hours Thursday with Gig Harbor dentist Eric Kvinsland and his wife, Bradie. They visited first-graders throughout the area to share knowledge of dental hygiene.

Bradie invited me. Eric happens to be my dentist and a fellow member of the Board of Directors of Communities In Schools of Peninsula. We needed no introductions.

At our first stop, Artondale Elementary, Eric told the excited kids that he studied in the same room when he was their age. Instant bonding!

Artondale first-grade teacher Andrea O’Brine asked her kids, “What is something you learned or enjoyed about our dentist’s presentation today?”

First-grader Aubrey Wade learned it’s good to floss your teeth.

Raiden Sandoval “liked when we watched the video and that we learned what dentists do.”

Tyler White said, “I like the tooth brushes!”

“You have to brush your teeth in the morning and at night,” Kylea Garretson added.

When they completed the programs for the kids at each school, Eric and Bradie presented their teachers a supply of stout Ziplock envelopes that contained a new toothbrush, floss and toothpaste for each kid. They were gifts from his office in Gig Harbor.

“Every year, Dr. Kvinsland fully engages our first-graders with his presentation,” Discovery Elementary first-grade teacher Margi Listoe said. “He knows how to speak and ask questions right at their level. The kids love getting the opportunity to be a tooth and get flossed by Dr. Kvinsland. They also become very excited about taking care of their teeth properly.

“At lunchtime, I hear comments about which foods are healthy and which will ‘rot your teeth!’ ” Listoe added. “The very next day, they come to school with stories of flossing and using the two-minute timers as they brush their teeth. Dr. Kvinsland’s presentation makes sure that all students become familiar with good dental hygiene.”

At Lighthouse Christian School, I found it interesting that most of the kids were clad in black sweatshirts with the school’s logo.

“It’s our uniform,” I was told.

Uniform or not, the kids were kids. When Kvinsland’s cartoon video production showed a trio of big blue liquid drops singing and dancing to a rock beat that proclaimed the virtues of flossing, the kids were regaled in laughter — the most beautiful sound on earth.

Bradie said when Eric started working with his father, Dr. Jon Kvinsland, 10 years ago, he wanted to carry on a tradition that his father started when Eric was a young boy. His dad taught students about taking care of their teeth.

Eric wanted to reach out and give oral health education to more kids to encourage healthy smiles. The program is funded by Kvinsland Dentistry and is a volunteer contribution. He is now in his ninth year.

Kvinsland said he maintains the program year after year because it’s a positive way to give back to the community.

“My goal is to encourage kids early in their life to establish healthy habits with their teeth,” he said. “Kids miss more days of school due to pain from tooth decay than any other reason. I want to deliver the message that a healthy mouth is important to overall health while establishing healthy habits early.”

Take that to heart, won’t you?

Hugh McMillan is a longtime freelance writer for The Peninsula Gateway. He can be reached at 253-884-3319 or by email at hmcmnp1000@

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