U.S. Navy Lt. Cody Kramer, a native of Lake Havasu City, Arizona and a general dentist with Task Force Koa Moana 23, does a dental check up on a kindergartener at Koror Elementary School in Koror, Palau, Aug. 24, 2023. Task Force Koa Moana 23, composed of U.S. Marines and Sailors from I Marine Expeditionary Force, deployed to the Indo-Pacific to strengthen relationships with Pacific Island partners through bilateral and multilateral security cooperation and community engagements. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Courtney G. White)

By: 1stLt Forrest Deal

Bringing a smile to a child’s face can be an infectious act. This summer, the U.S. Navy dental team with Task Force Koa Moana helped improve the smile of nearly 500 elementary students around Palau through the School Dental Program.

 From mid-July to the end of August, Lieutentant Cody Kramer, a licensed dentist and Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Leianna Adame, a dental technician, taught classes on proper dental hygiene to students at George B. Harris and Koror Elementary Schools.

“Every student received a tooth brush, tooth paste and a lesson,” says Kramer. “We give a full brushing lesson and go over flossing.”

Their message to students was when it comes to preventing long-term health issues, try to master a brilliance in the basics. Their team took a hands-on approach to get the point across.

“We have a model of the mouth and big tooth brush. We have the students practice on the model and then they practice on their own mouth,” said Kramer.

The dental team also found many of the students were unfamiliar with the concept of flossing and tried to clear up misconceptions about the practice.

 “Most people think it has to be every day but that’s really not the case. If you are flossing a couple times a week that’s enough to keep you healthy,” said Kramer. “You actually want to floss before brushing. That’s another commons mistake, you want to flush out the big stuff with the floss and then brushing will wipe it all away.”

Following more than a month worth of instruction, the dental team shifted their focus to screening individual students. One by one students ranging from kindergarten to eighth grade made their way into the dentist chair for teeth cleaning, fillings, crowns and extractions.

For this undertaking, the Koa Moana team wasn’t alone. Beatrix Taima, a dentist with the Palau Ministry of Health and two of her assistants, joined in the mission. Through their combined efforts the team screened all 350 students at George B. Harris Elementary School.

“The joy of having their pain taken care of, rebuilding a smile for a kid that has been dealing with black front teeth for years and all of a sudden he sees his white teeth again was so rewarding,” said Kramer.

Once they were done at Harris, the team moved on to screen Koror elementary. With 680 students Koror has the largest student body among elementary schools in Palau. But one of the biggest hurdles the team says they faced was getting parents full permission to work on their kid’s teeth.

Adame’s message to parents is sign the consent forms for the School Dental Progam. “The government has provided funding for the hospital to come to the elementary school, so it is free for your kids to get the resources we provide,” says Adame.

The dental team says with more parents signing over permission to have their child’s teeth cleaned more students could experience a renewed whitened smile.

“We’ve had a couple kids cry when they’ve seen their smile,” says Kramer. “We had a mom come in because she was so interested in what it was going to look like and she was crying when she saw her son’s new teeth.”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *