Kristina Hyatt, Miss Native American USA 2015-16, is teaming up with America’s ToothFairy: National Children’s Oral Health Foundation to reach out to Native children across the country through the America’s Tooth Fairy Smile Drive.
The Smile Drive, which will focus on saving young smiles across Indian country, coincides with National Children’s Dental Health Month in February. Hyatt and America’s ToothFairy will collect toothbrushes, toothpaste, and other oral health care products for Native children.
“Pediatric dental disease, although preventable, is the number one chronic childhood disease in the United States. According to the Indian Health Service, American Indian and Alaska Native preschoolers have the highest levels of tooth decay in the U.S.,” says a press release from the Miss Native American USA Organization. “By grade three, 91 percent of American Indian and Alaskan Native children have experienced tooth decay and 72 percent have unfilled cavities. Left untreated, tooth decay can cause severe pain, embarrassment, life-threatening infections and even death.”
Hyatt will start a speaking tour of reservations at Pine Ridge, where 40 percent of children suffer from moderate to urgent dental needs, on February 21. With the help of America’s ToothFairy and Hyatt’s Eastern Band of Cherokee in North Carolina she will present oral health care kits during her speaking presentations.
How can you help? Hyatt and the Miss Native American USA Organization have set up a donation page to help cover travel costs. America’s ToothFairy and the Miss Native American USA Organization are also looking for volunteers to host local Smile Drives, as well as donations for the Toothbrush Fund. To volunteer, or donate visit the America’s ToothFairy website.
In February 2015, Hyatt hosted a Smile Drive in Cherokee, North Carolina where more than 5,000 oral care products were collected and donated to local youth centers.
Hyatt, the reining Miss Native American USA, is a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, and is a dental hygienist. She graduated from Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College and currently works at the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Children’s Dental Program.
“We have our differences when it comes to our cultures and traditions, but one thing we all have in common, is that the most beautiful thing we can wear is our smile,” Hyatt said in the press release.