WCCP Logs 42 Years Helping Washington County Smile

Teresa Alley has worked with the WCCP for more than 18 years. Alley is smiling alongside Jonesboro first grader Camie Lee Morris, who visited the WCCP table to receive an exam and fluoride treatment. (Photo by Sarah Craighead Dedmon)

By Sarah Craighead 



Jen Wood and Teresa Alley beam when they talk about their work with the Washington County Children’s Program (WCCP). Alley has served as a dental hygienist for 30 years, more than 18 of them with the WCCP, and Wood has worked as the dental program assistant for a total of 19 years.

Wood, who has worked with the WCCP over two terms, remembers being a customer of the program when she was a child.  “I remember the fluoride rinse...and I won the oral health competition,” said Wood, whose award-winning entry was a giant tube of toothpaste and a toothbrush made of snow. The prize? A $10 gift card to Helen’s Restaurant.  

This year Alley and Wood will care for more than 1,000 elementary students as part of the WCCP’s dental outreach offering. In the warmer months, they arrive at schools in a truck called the Tooth Ferry, where they perform fluoride treatments for the children. “We go right to where the kids are,” said Alley, who works as the program’s oral health coordinator.  

In cold weather they set up inside the schools and the children visit their table for an oral exam, a fluoride treatment, and fun dental giveaways like animal-shaped toothbrush covers.

“We are working with children that aren’t, for the most part, able to access dental services through traditional means,” said Alley. “By working with them right at the school we've eliminated some barriers to care.” 

The WCCP visits every school in Washington County except Lubec and Indian Township, which already have strong relationships with local dental clinics. Some schools receive three visits per year, some receive one. Local enrollment has increased this year after Dr. Dorr closed his doors in Machias.

Wood and Alley said that children have different approaches to dentistry, and they work to accommodate each child. “We’ll have kids go two at a time,” said Wood, so that shy or anxious children can watch their friend go first. Sometimes, children refuse treatment, and that’s okay too. “We keep an eye on the fear,” said Wood.

Wood and Alley are particularly enthusiastic about a new product they’re able to offer the students. “In April of 2016, NYU brought forth a new type of fluoride,” said Alley. “In a year’s time we saw a 40 percent decay-rate reduction.” 

Silver diamine fluoride can be applied to cavities and reduce or eliminate the need for fillings. It permanently blackens the tooth where applied, but offers a cost-effective fix for patients who might otherwise live with the pain of decay.