Mouth-opening Yukon school tradition nixed by virus

Yukon dentists won’t be visiting classrooms this month

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Yukon dentist Dr. David Deason speaks Feb. 2 after accepting a Yukon City Council proclamation declaring February as “Children’s Dental Health Month” in the City of Yukon. Annual school visits were canceled this year due to COVID-19 safety protocols. (Photo by Conrad Dudderar)

By Conrad Dudderar
Senior Staff Writer

A mouth-opening Yukon school tradition that stretches back to the mid-1970s was canceled this year due to the pandemic.

This week would have marked the 47th observance of National Children’s Dental Health Month in Yukon Public Schools.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 safety protocols mean there won’t be any Yukon-area dentists visiting first-grade classrooms to teach proper dental hygiene.

“This year, because of the quarantine and everything that’s going on, we’re not going to the schools,” Yukon dentist Dr. David Deason said. “And it breaks my heart.”

Yukon-area dental professionals typically visit first graders in Yukon and Piedmont on “Dental Health Day” in early February to share their dental health message. Tuesday, Feb. 2 would have been that day.

“Through the last 47 years, we’ve seen over 30,000 kids in our school system with an emphasis on giving them good home-care habits, good eating habits and letting them know the importance of keeping their teeth,” Deason said.

Dental professionals in February 2022 will visit two grade levels on Yukon’s Dental Health Day “so we don’t miss a kid,” he pledged.

“It’s very important to us to help these kids learn,” Deason noted.

“It’s really heart-warming to me to see these kids grow up and have a knowledge of dentistry.”

Although dentists didn’t converge on school classrooms during the day Feb. 2, the Yukon City Council did present a proclamation that night declaring February as “Children’s Dental Health Month” in the City of Yukon.

The proclamation reads:

“The future is, to a large measure, dependent on the good health of our children and youth, the citizens of tomorrow. … good health, physical and mental, can be achieved through the good health habits learned early.”

City council members praised Yukon’s participating dental professionals for their efforts to help local students.

“For some of these kids, that’s the only dentist they’ll see,” Mayor Shelli Selby noted. “So, it’s a wonderful, wonderful program.”

Ward 3 Council Member Donna Yanda thanked all dentists “who contribute and donate their time for our children.”

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HE HAD A DREAM

Dr. Deason started the local observance of Children’s Dental Health Month some 47 years ago after graduating from dental school.

“I had a dream that maybe something could be done in our school system to help our kids learn about dental health,” he related.

The program began with a handful of Yukon dentists going into the schools and speaking to several hundred third grade students.

Over the past 47 years, Children’s Dental Health Day has naturally expanded.

“As our program kept growing, we kept getting more dentists and I moved out to Piedmont for a while,” Deason related. “So, we picked up Piedmont in our program.”

On Dental Health Day, about 1,300 students receive free visual exams of their teeth to check if there are any issues that must be addressed.

Several dozen dentists, orthodontists and oral surgeons volunteer their time each February to discuss proper dental hygiene.

“I appreciate all of our dentists,” Deason said. “This is 47 years. We’ve only missed one year before and that was the year my dad died. I got so much ‘flak’ from the kids for not coming to the school that the next year, we did two classes.”

With the “Give Kids A Smile” program, some local dental professionals each February provide free dental services to children who otherwise may not receive needed care due to financial hardship.

“Through the last 20 years, we’ve probably done around $200,000 worth of dental work free for children in Yukon,” Deason shared. “That includes orthodontists, our oral surgeons and our general dentists.”