In which I felt the need to respond

I saw this on my twitter feed today:

I tried to embed it here: Tenn. reporter gives parents good tips to protect their kids' teeth from decay #Dentalisfundamental @karennazorhill— CDHP (@Teeth_Matter) February 5, 2014

..and got excited. A paper from my home state was highlighting children’s oral health – particularly applicable since February is National Children’s Dental Health Month. But then I read the article, linked here, and was sadly disappointed.

If you have nothing better to do with your day, my response that I emailed to Ms. Hill is pasted below:

Ms. Hill,

First I would like to thank you for highlighting the importance of children’s oral health for the Chattanooga community. Early childhood caries (cavities) is the number one chronic disease affecting young children and establishing a healthy mouth promotes overall well-being.

I am concerned that parts of your article are inadvertently dismissive of the current recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and the American Academy of Pediatrics that children see a dentist by age one and do not fully emphasize the importance of dental care for children:

The entire anecdotal section about Dr. Joseph Brogden’s interaction with his grandson is not applicable to many patients. Dr. Brogden is a general dentist and unfortunately is disseminating and reinforcing false, outdated information about children’s teeth (as quoted by his daughter as saying: “…it really isn’t necessary to get kids to the dentist too young. After all, baby teeth do fall out”). The reason that we currently recommend children seeing a dentist at age one is because all too often when they are seen at three, four, five years old or later, they already have cavities that need to be fixed. Sadly, emergency room visits for children because of tooth pain are on the rise and dental disease contributes to thousands of lost school days each year.

Cavities in baby teeth can quickly spread to the nerve of the tooth and then into the bone which can damage developing adult teeth and cause life threatening infections. Many times this necessitates having the baby tooth pulled, and then it no longer holds space for the permanent tooth that will come in when the child is 11 or 12, which can cause crowding. Young patients are particularly challenging as highlighted by your article. Children do not often want to sit in a dental chair and fixing even small cavities on their baby teeth before they get larger is often impossible. Without good preventative measures, it is often necessary that children have surgery under general anesthesia or sedation to fix their cavities, which comes with its own set of risks.

By seeing a child early and often, dentists can help parents prevent cavities and monitor a child’s growth and development. Dr. Charles Ankar highlighted helpful hints that are useful for parents, but I’m afraid that the consequences of not following these guidelines were not forthcoming in your article.

Quotes from parents saying that going to the dentist is both difficult and a waste of time and money is unhelpful for the general public (“I thought it was a total waste of time and money and put Shad and I in a power struggle of ‘you must sit for the dentist’ that we just didn’t need. I won’t take Knox for many years, unless, of course, there is something that needs to be checked out”). For some children, going to the dentist is difficult, but so is getting necessarily immunizations from their pediatrician. Pediatric dentists are dentists who have gone to dental school and then completed an additional two years of training afterwards, and are a good resource for scared kids. They have been trained in techniques to help familiarize children to the dental environment while providing age appropriate care. I was disappointed that you did not include any pediatric dental specialists in your article. As for early visits being a “waste of money”, it is much cheaper to see a dentist for preventative cleanings and exams than to fix cavities (especially under general anesthesia) or be seen in the emergency room for tooth pain.

Again, I am very thankful that children’s oral health is being highlighted by the media, so I do not mean for this letter to be disparaging. I am only concerned that the importance was not properly conveyed. The answer to the question posed in the title of your article should have been a clear, unequivocal “age one” in order to prevent undue morbidity, and rarely but tragically, mortality. February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, when the American Dental Association raises awareness about developing good habits for a lifetime of healthy teeth. This however this is clearly an important public health issue that needs to be addressed year round.


Elise Sarvas, DDS

Pediatric Dental Resident and Master of Public Health candidate at the University of Washington and Seattle Children’s Hospital in Seattle, Washington

Native of Oak Ridge, Tennessee

In which I made some blackberry jam

My first job ever was to track snakes for this research company in East Tennessee – the Clinch River Environmental Studies Organization. Yes – track snakes. My high school biology teacher offered me the job and I continued on with them every summer through college I was back in TN.

This is the only picture I could find from my snake tracking days. Sometime circa 2002?

This is the only picture I could find from my snake tracking days. Sometime circa 2002? I lugged about 30lbs of equipment all over the woods looking for my scaly friends. 

Seriously, it was the Best. Job. Ever. I basically went out with an antenna and tried to locate the position of snakes that we had transmitters surgically placed into and then record their body and the ambient air temperature for 12 hour periods of time. Sometimes it would take me a few minutes to find a snake, sometimes it would takes days. Usually I would lug along two or three Nalgene bottles of water and as I drank them through the day I’d fill them with blackberries so my mom could make cobbler or my grandmother could make jam. Now, thousands of miles away and with a less National Geographic-y job I’m forced to make my own jam.

I presented some of my data in 2003 at the National Youth Science Camp in Barstow, WV where I was Tennessee's delegate. NERD ALERT TO THE MAX!

While digging through scrapbooks for the picture above I came across this gem: Here I am presenting some of my data in 2003 at the National Youth Science Camp in Barstow, WV where I was the state of Tennessee’s delegate. NERD ALERT TO THE MAX!

After nearly 6 years in the field following those slinky creatures around, I presented the rest of the data for my Graduation with Distinction thesis from Duke in 2007. There isn't really a nerd alert level high enough for this.

After nearly 6 years in the field following those slinky creatures around, I presented the rest of the data for my Graduation with Distinction thesis from Duke in 2007. There isn’t really a nerd alert level high enough for this.

A few weeks ago I suckered Jeff into coming out to pick berries with me at Magnuson Park which is right by where I work. They were at near peak plumpness and the timing couldn’t’ve been more perfect.  Kat, one of my co-residents, promised to teach me the secret jam making ways if I showed up with enough berries, jars, sugar and pectin at her house on a Saturday morning.



Jars at the ready

Jars sterilized and at the ready

First batch measured out

First batch measured out

Between the time Kat promised to teach me and our Saturday jam date, their house got broken into and their cars stolen. It was horrible and I felt terrible for them and tried to cancel our plans, but she insisted that I come to give them something else to think about that morning. I’m glad I did because I got to watch these too adorable kids while they ran some errands (update: they found the thieves! and the cars!).

Snack time!

Snack time!



Did you know how much sugar there is in jam? A shit ton. It's basically just fruit syrup, congealed. No wonder I love it so much!

Did you know how much sugar there is in jam? A shit ton. It’s basically just fruit syrup, congealed. No wonder I love it so much!

Delicious success!

Delicious success!

Now I have enough blackberry jam to last me a long time! Thanks Kat for the great lesson!

In which I get crafty

First, thanks to all the veterans for keeping our country safe and for the many sacrifices you and your families make. Special shout outs to Granddaddy (Army, WWII-Pacific), my Papaw (Navy, WWII-Europe), my father in law (Air Force, Vietnam) and my little brother (Marine, Afghanistan) and cousin (Marine). Love you all so much.

Since apparently Veteran’s Day is a three day weekend up here I decided to get a little crafty to cover one of the walls of our apartment. We signed the lease for this place sight unseen when we moved here last June and while it’s clean and in a great location, the interior layout leaves some room for desirability. Lots of weird angles, not my favorite color paint and lots of awkward large wall spaces.

To try and add some color to one of the largest walls in the living area I decided to make some “art” that paid homage to the increasingly hard question, “Where are you from?”. I grew up in Tennessee but spent the last nine years in North Carolina in school. Jeff grew up in Pittsburgh, but then spend seven years in North Carolina and the last two working up in New Jersey. Now we are here on the complete opposite coast. By the time we explain all this, the poor asker of the question has a glazed over look and way more information than he or she was looking for.

So here’s what I made:

1. Start with large plywood boards (Lowe’s will cut them to size for you), acrylic paint (bought the cheapest that Michael’s sold), some yarn in contrasting colors and lots of nails (I used 1 1/4″).

2. Paint the boards. (Step 2b. Beg your husband to run out for newspaper because you’re tired of running around all day looking for the rest of the supplies and now remember why you don’t craft on a regular basis).

3. Find the shape of what you want to have on your board and print it out. I used this website to find the state outlines and this website to blow them up. Tape it to your board.

4. Start hammering (and try not to annoy your neighbors). You can nail directly into the board like I did, but that leaves some small paper tags at the end. You can also try and impress your outline with a dull blade if you want to be all fancy. Keep the nails fairly tight together, but don’t get lost in the details of recreating a coastline or river border.

5. Rip off the paper (if it’s still there) and start stringing your yarn around all the nails. The more random you can be the better the outcome. Be sure to tie it off a few times so one slip off the nail won’t cause the entire piece to fall apart.

6. And repeat as many times as your neighbors will let you.

I secured them to the wall with some heavy duty 3M stickies (rated up to hold 9lbs! Love those engineers!). It’s not perfect (and Washington bothers me because it looks a little stubby – but I guess that’s just what the eastern edge looks like), but it’s a nice color pop on an otherwise bare and highly visible wall.