For the first time in the 17-year-history of Give Kids a Smile Day (GKAS), RSDM’s Pediatric Department offered fluoride dental sealants to visiting children. The day was a playful celebration that included tips on brushing and flossing, free dental screenings and flawlessly well-coordinated Cat in the Hat costumes worn by students, staff and faculty.
“We’ve always done fluoride treatments and screenings, but this is the first year we did more intensive preventive care,” said Dr. Glenn Rosivack, Interim Chair of the Pediatric Department. Although in past years, GKAS has focused mostly on children ages 3 to 5, this year, visiting children were between 6 an 12, when they are more likely to have adult molars. Fluoride sealants, applied to fill in crevices on molars, help prevent cavities.
About 80 children from the Gray Charter School in Newark attended the screening, where they were treated to a magic show, along with student-supplied stickers, face painting and free toothbrushes and toothpaste. There were fewer pupils than past years because applying sealants is more time-consuming than other treatments typically provided that day, said Rosivack.
Teachers at the Gray school prepared students by helping them learn the definitions of words they might be hearing on Friday. “We explained what fluoride is and what the word ‘cavity’ means,” said Dianna D. Davis, a teacher’s aid at the school.
First-grader Justin Oguera, who had never visited a dentist before, had already learned some lessons. “Cavities hurt your teeth,” offered Oguera, who said he was happy to be at his first dental visit.
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. GKAS helps raise awareness of the importance of regular pediatric dental care and good oral health habits, particularly among underserved children.
As part of the children’s RSDM dental screenings, residents from the Orthodontics Department also examine children to see which ones might need braces. “At that age, we can detect crowning and cross bites before all of their adult teeth come in,” said ortho resident Brittany Zito, who dresses as the tooth fairy each year on GKAS. “A lot of parents don’t know that you should take your child for their first orthodontist at age 7.”