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TCU alumni connect with each other at Guy Fieri’s Dive & Taco Joint in downtown Kansas City, Missouri. on Friday Oct. 7, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Tristen Smith)
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TCU student publishes a children’s dental hygiene book

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Cayla Prophater, a senior biology major, wrote and published “Stella the Shark has a toothache.” (Photo courtesy of Cayla Prophater)
The front cover of Cayla Prophater’s book, “Stella the Shark has a toothache.” (Photo courtesy of Cayla Prophater)

Reading books about oral health to children wasn’t enough for the president of the TCU Pre-Dental Club. She wanted to write them, too.  

Cayla Prophater, a senior biology major, wrote and published “Stella the Shark has a toothache,” which teaches young children the importance of brushing their teeth and practicing good dental hygiene. 

The book is an offshoot of the club’s “TCU Tooth Fairies” project. Club members volunteer at local elementary schools to read books, give step-by-step instructions on brushing teeth and provide dental hygiene kits.  

Prophater said she wanted to enhance the project’s impact by publishing her own book.  

“My children’s literature professor, Dr. Virginia Hodges, inspired me to write this book,” Prophater said.

Chie Nguyen, a junior biology major, brought Stella and her underwater friends to life. Nguyen specializes in illustrating significant diseases. She met Prophater while they worked as teaching assistants in a general chemistry lab.

Pediatric dentists Courtney Favaloro and Jerod Brazeal, oral surgeon Matthew Streelman and dentist Brad Judy contributed expertise to ensure the book’s accuracy and educational value.

Cayla Prophater reads her book to elementary school children as part of her TCU Tooth Fairy project. (Photo courtesy of Cayla Prophater)

The book reflects Prophater’s experiences within and outside of TCU. She is an orthodontic assistant, a dental assistant with TCU Athletics dentist Gary Pointer and an oral surgery assistant with Streelman.  

“Through my experiences, I’ve gained insight into patients’ perspectives and needs,” Prophater said. “My goal is to create a safe environment where patients can openly discuss their concerns.”   

Cayla Prophater, the writer, and Chie Nguyen, the illustrator, hold their newly published book. (Photo courtesy of Cayla Prophater)

Prophater named the characters after her family members: Stella the Shark and Nora the narwhal, are named after her sisters, Charlie William, the walrus, is named after her brother, her parents are represented by Dan the dolphin and Cheryl the crab and Chie the clownfish is named after her illustrator. 

Prophater said she wanted to incorporate the important people in her life in her first book.

The Pre-Dental Club received a TCU Experimental Projects to Impact the Community (EPIC) grant for community projects and their Tooth Fairy project.

Prophater said she hopes her book will entertain and educate readers on the importance of maintaining good oral hygiene habits from a young age.

Stella the Shark has a toothache” is available on Amazon, and Prophater plans to expand into the TCU bookstore and select dental offices.

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