Saving Smiles One Book at a Time

Read on to learn more about domestic mission trips and Where the Sugar Bugs Live.

Saving Smiles One Book at a Time 1

Carrie Wucinich 

Carrie Wucinich, RDH started working in the dental field in 2001 and graduated dental hygiene school in 2008. In 2019 she started writing Where the Sugar Bugs Live, which was published March 30, 2020. In addition to being a writer and an RDH, she’s a mom of 2. Practicing in Las Vegas, she works hard to help children in more ways than one and help bring awareness to the two diseases that impact children the most: tooth decay and childhood cancer. Carrie goes on mission trips, reading her book to underserved children, educating them on dental hygiene. She also donates a portion of her proceeds from her book sales to families affected by childhood cancer. 

Domestic Mission Trips: Giving back 

Carrie had the opportunity to go to Montana at a Native American reservation where she got to read her book, Where the Sugar Bugs Live, for a head start program with RDH, Crystal SpringShe also had the opportunity to go to Houston, Texas with another hygienist, Amber Lovatos, where Sprig sponsored 145 children by buying them all their own copy of Where the Sugar Bugs Live. We were honored to have the opportunity to do that! 

Host Dr. Jarod Johnson notes that there are many kids who need help domestically and it can be easier to access them since you don’t need to take a whole week or month off from your office. Carrie recommends calling up a Title 1 school in your area and ask to read Where the Sugar Bugs Live and educate their students on oral health. Some of these children don’t even have a toothbrush at home and most of the time the teachers are beyond grateful. Carrie explains that sometimes parents haven’t been educated on the importance of oral health so it’s up to us to break the cycle. You don’t have to go to another country to make an important difference. It’s worth it to see the little smiles on their faces. 

So, what happens on these mission trips? Carrie says that children are usually scared or crying at the beginning because they’ve never been to the dentist before and don’t know what to expect. They see the hygienist in scrubs, scrub cap, loupes and face mask. The RDH will tell the kids to sit down with Carrie and explains that she’ll read to them. After learning about sugar bugs, the kids tend to relax since it’s not as scary for them once they’ve been taught about what’s going on in their mouth. Depending on the program, the children then go see a dentist. Carrie describes it as a rewarding experience – setting them up for success.  

Sometimes, like in Houston, Carrie gifts them her book. She explains that this is particularly special to them because some of these kids have never been given a gift before. It makes them the happiest kids on the planet. They feel loved! 

It’s important to ask the children not just if they brush their teeth, but if they have a toothbrush at home. This gives them the opportunity to say yes or no and if they say no, then you can gift them a toothbrush and show them how to use it. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a high-end area; there are kids living in tough situations all over. Some children can’t make it to a dental office because their parents don’t have a car. 

Carrie says she has found her purpose. 

Why Did Carrie Write Where the Sugar Bugs Live

Carrie has been in the dental industry since she was 18 so she talks about sugar bugs every single day. Once she had her own kids, her son refused to brush. When she worked in pediatric dental offices, she wouldn’t understand how parents couldn’t get their kids to brush. Then after becoming a mom, herself she realized how truly hard it is. She began writing her manuscript for children to understand with colorful illustrations. It’s completely changed her life for the better. Now her children ask her to brush away the sugar bugs for them.   

She worked on the manuscript for about 6 months and started it as a story. The two characters in the book are her kids, Dominic and Mia. She started revamping it to add rhymes and sight words that children learn in school. After finishing the manuscript, she submitted it to the publisher. After they accepted it, the publisher created the illustrations. They went back and forth on how the teeth and gums would look. 

Carrie is actually writing another book. This time she’s going more in depth to explain that Mr. Tooth Checker isn’t so scary. She’s also going to incorporate nutrition like explaining that sugar bugs love things that are sticky and to make sure to brush it away, so you don’t get any sugar bugs. It will also be available in Spanish.  

Dental Hygiene Tips 

Carrie believes one of the biggest things is to treat each patient with love and grace. Take a step back and let everything go and try to bring as much positivity to each patient experience. Make those 30 minutes to one hour a good experience for them. 

Host Dr. Jarod Johnson says to always point out the positive. If they open their mouth wide, make sure to comment on that. 

Visuals are huge. Stickers are a fan favorite. Toys are also a favorite. Ask them, “Have you ever seen a sugar bug before?” and when they ask what that is, you can explain to them what they “look like”. Some are blue, some are green, some are furry, etc. Remember, always start with, “Do you have a toothbrush at home?” 

Purchase Where the Sugar Bugs Live 

If you’d like to get in contact with Carrie Wucinich, author of Where the Sugar Bugs Live, follow her @Where_the_sugar_bugs_live on Instagram. You can also email her at or call her at (725) 261-7537. You can purchase her book on Amazon. A portion of the proceeds goes to families affected by childhood cancer.