On Give Kids a Smile Day last month, first-graders from the Gray Charter School in Newark happily recited lessons they learned about taking care of their teeth and gums. But they were awestruck by RSDM’s reigning Tooth Fairy, Britteny Zito, a resident in the Department of Orthodontics, who has entertained kids for the past few years on GKAS day.
Zito embodies the role with the dedication of a method actor, creating back stories for her character and an ever-evolving selection of costumes and makeup. This year, since Give Kids a Smile day fell on Wear Red Day, which raises awareness of heart disease, Zito wore a red dress. She also added new wings, a scepter and extra glitter.
Zito is used to fielding questions from kids, including the unexpected. They’ve asked her why she has a cell phone, whether she can fly, and how she finds all the homes of kids who lost teeth. Her answers? The cell phone helps her stay in touch with her grandma, the Queen of Tooth Fairies. Yes, she can fly, but only when it’s dark and she must first become invisible. To help her deliver to the right kids, she relies on an invisible GPS hidden in her wings.
“Sometimes, I have to think on my feet,” she admitted.
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, Chair of the Department of Pediatrics.
GKAS helps raise awareness of the importance of regular pediatric dental care and good oral health habits, particularly among underserved children. This year, children received free oral health screenings, in addition to fluoride treatments and sealants to protect from dental decay if they showed signs of cavities, said Dr. Rosivack.
The kids were proud to show off their new found knowledge of oral health. “I learned to brush your teeth three times a day,” said Karly Collins, age 6.
“I learned that you should brush for two minutes,” added Victor Oderind, age 7.
Zito taught the children that sometimes, children don’t get cash for lost teeth. But they’ll never wind up empty handed. “Some kids don’t get any money and they ask why. I say, ‘I give you magic instead,'” she explained.”That seems to make them happy.”