On Give Kids a Smile Day last week, RSDM was filled with tooth fairies, magic and games. But students, faculty and staff were on a serious mission: to prevent dental decay, one of the most prevalent diseases among children.
Nearly 300 Essex County children received free dental screenings and fluoride treatments to prevent cavities at RSDM’s Newark clinic. And there were lessons on the proper way to brush and keep teeth healthy, in addition to toothbrush giveaways and other oral health swag.
In addition to RSDM’s Newark clinic, RSDM’s South Jersey clinics also participate in the GKAS program.
Kids were proud to show of their new found knowledge. “I learned to brush my teeth in a circular motion,” said Haley Jean, 10, a student at the Forrest Street School in Orange.
Fourth-year RSDM student Briana Malcom described tactics for teaching children the best way to brush. “We show, tell and do,” said Malcolm. Student dentists held mirrors so kids could get a good look at the proper technique. “A lot of people brush side to side and don’t bother to get the backs of the teeth,” explained Malcolm.
Give Kids a Smile is a nationwide effort, sponsored by the American Dental Association (ADA) to raise awareness of the epidemic of untreated dental disease. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), one in four children under the age of 5 has cavities. Both the American Dental Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children have their first dental appointment within six months of their first tooth eruption and no later than age 1, said Dr. Glenn Rosivack, interim chair of the Pediatric Department.
GKAS helps raise awareness of the importance of regular pediatric dental care and good oral health habits, particularly among underserved children.
“It also stresses the importance of finding a dental home — a dentist office they visit regularly,” said Rosivack.
GKAS can help families take early steps toward getting treatment for their children and lessens risks by teaching them how to care for teeth and gums.
This year, the event was also a reminder of the importance of plans like the Child Health Insurance program (CHIP) and Obamacare, said Dean Cecile A. Feldman. Both still exist in New Jersey but have recently been in danger of proposed cuts. Under Obamacare, which designates pediatric dental care as an essential benefit, nearly 500,000 state residents, including many children, now qualify for dental care that was previously out-of-reach.
“This coverage helps children get both preventive care and acute care, rather than having to rely on emergency rooms as an alternative for treating tooth infections and trauma,’’ said Feldman. “Oral health can’t be separated from overall health and patients need resources for their kids to stay healthy and pain free.’’