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Ellen Goepel, of the Bennington Oral Health Coalition, shows students of the Village School of North Bennington how to properly brush their teeth during a special oral health presentation Thursday afternoon.

NORTH BENNINGTON >> Representatives from the Bennington Oral Health Coalition on Thursday spent all day meeting with the students of the Village School of North Bennington, and teaching them about proper oral hygiene.

AmeriCorps Vista Nevin Lessard, dressed up as Dr. Brushy-Flossy, performed experiments with each grade level in the school, and other coalition volunteers – including Lisa Kazazean, Rory Price, Mary McGuinness, Alisha Gulley, Ellen Goepel, and Marylou Chicote – gave presentations about oral health.

Goepel, a nurse who volunteers with the coalition, gave the presentation to Kathleen Backus' third grade class. "I'm guessing that I'm not the first person to teach you about your teeth and how to take care of them," she said to the students. To inspire thought, Goepel asked the students why we have teeth. "To chew and eat!" one responded. When Goepel asked what would happen if we couldn't chew our food, one student happily responded, "We'd die!" Other members of the class also pointed out that teeth are necessary to talk, to smile, and to give our faces the proper shape.


Other parts of the presentation included a lesson on the anatomy of a tooth, and pictures of advanced tooth decay. "We're not showing you these pictures to scare you," said Kazazean, as one student feigned vomited noises from across the room, "We're showing them to educate you." They also showed a display board with baggies of sugar under containers of popular beverages, which allowed students to visualize how much sugar was in some of their favorite drinks.

"If you have one juice, this is how much sugar is flowing past your teeth!" said Goepel.

"That's a lot," replied one student worriedly.

For the third grade, the experiments run by Dr. Brushy-Flossy included placing an egg in an acidic solution similar to what would be present in most sodas, as an illustration of how bad drinks like that can be for your teeth (the egg expanded and began to degrade very quickly after being submerged), and another that demonstrated the importance of flossing. In that experiment, a student placed peanut butter between two of his fingers, which he then pressed together. Another student attempted to get all of the peanut butter off using a toothbrush. Students were then horrified to see how much peanut butter remained between his fingers when Kazazean ran a string of floss through the gap.

At the end of each presentation, students got gift bags that included a toothbrush, toothpaste, and dental floss.

The coalition also ran essay contests for students in fourth, fifth, and sixth grade.

Derek Carson can be reached for comment at 802-447-7567, ext. 122.