When the lady with the pink iridescent ball gown, glittering shoes, piles of red hair and a set of wings on her back walked into the room, the little girls allowed “ahs” of envy to escape from their mouths as the little boys struggled to figure out just what exactly their next activity at the Cowboy Church of Ennis’ evening Bible school entailed.
“You’re the tooth fairy!” one child exclaimed. “I saw you at my school.”
“That’s right, I’m Sparkle the Tooth Fairy,” the woman said. “I’m here to teach you about healthy teeth.”
The Cowboy Church of Ennis was just another stop on Sparkle’s full schedule of schools, organizations and churches to visit in order to spread the word on healthy teeth and gums. For the last four years, Jennifer Vespia has been portraying Sparkle full-time for Dr. Jon Ousley at Just For Kids Dental, which has offices in Waxahachie and Dallas. She frequently visits schools and organizations throughout Ellis County and the Metroplex.
“I have visited over 85,000 kids throughout the nation. I am the nation’s only full-time tooth fairy,” Vespia said.
Vespia has been in dentistry for 18 years as a dental assistant. Talking to children about dental health has always been a part of her career.
“I used to visit schools in my scrubs and we’d watch the same video that I watched when I was in school,” Vespia said, saying the presentations weren’t exactly captivating and the lessons learned not lasting.
“Just as a joke one day I said I was going to dress up as the tooth fairy,” Vespia said, saying Ousley laughed it off. But when she appeared at a presentation in a full ball gown and wings, the children loved it and the presentation became much more interactive.
“Kids really like this,” Vespia said. “Dr. Ousley is the most wonderful person. For him to fund this is amazing.”
Vespia’s presentation for children in pre-kindergarten through second grades teaches children the basics of keeping teeth healthy - how to brush teeth properly (wide, circular strokes on the front, top and back of teeth) and how to floss.
“Children just do not know how to brush their teeth,” Vespia said, adding that part of her job is to teach the proper technique early in children’s lives.
The most important part of Vespia’s job as Sparkle is to give a positive view of the dentist’s office.
“Our whole purpose is to make the kids want to go to the dentist. It’s all about the fun. I don’t think there’s a practice dedicated to fun as much as Just For Kids,” Vespia said, saying that dentist offices are not as scary as they once were.
“Parents are equating their experiences as a child at the dentist to what their child will go through. Things are different now. Things are fun,” Vespia said, adding that advances in technology have made trips to the dentist less painful than they once were. “The word scary should never be used when talking about the dentist.”
Vespia’s presentation is just as much for the kids as the adults. Parents need to be reminded that sugars in candy, carbonated drinks and other treats are not good for teeth.
“A lot of adults think when you’re a certain age you’re not cavity prone anymore,” Vespia said. “That’s not true.”
Having a job as the tooth fairy is the equivalent of every little girl’s dream - the dress, the wings, the magic wand, the sparkly shoes, the princess crown - most little girls want these things as a part of everyday life. However, being a fairy everyday comes with a few hazards and inconveniences. Vespia frequently uses her van as a dressing room and wears a petticoat day in and day out. But for Vespia, the few negatives are heavily outweighed by the positives.
“Being the tooth fairy isn’t a seasonal job. I have a year round gig,” Vespia said. “I love doing this.”
Sparkle the Tooth Fairy’s presentations are a free community service and Vespia is willing to speak to groups of children of any size. Her program runs from 30-45 minutes long and is geared toward children ages 3 to 8 years old.
“I’ll do this for literally anybody. If there are kids around I will do it,” Vespia said. “It’s very age appropriate and fun and interactive. The more children, the better - I like big crowds.”
E-mail Mandy at firstname.lastname@example.org