Smiles were put on the faces of hundreds of underserved and special needs children on Long Island during the 17th annual “Give Kids a Smile Day.”
Northwell Health teamed with Henry Schein and the Nassau County Dental Society to host the special event, which involved more than 350 volunteers and 100 dentists providing free dental screenings, fluoride treatments and oral hygiene instruction to 1,500 area children.
Dentists, hygienists and other medical professionals from Northwell Health, Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow, NYU Winthrop Hospital in Mineola and Interfaith Medical Center in Brooklyn participated in “Give Kids A Smile Day” for children between the ages of 4 and 7 on Friday, Feb. 7 at the Cradle of Aviation Museum in East Garden City to mark National Children’s Dental Health Month.
In all, students in the Freeport, Hempstead, Lawrence, Roosevelt, and Uniondale school districts were treated and educated about oral hygiene.
Organizers noted that low-income children suffer twice as much with dental decay as those from more affluent families, which remains the most common chronic childhood disease.
"Untreated dental disease contributes to thousands of children nationwide who can't eat or sleep properly, pay attention in school or smile. Without relief, they face lifelong health problems - not just dental health, but overall health - and difficulty getting good jobs, to say nothing of the lack of confidence and self-esteem caused by their inability to smile."
“The special thing about our event, besides its size and scope, is the varied background of our volunteers,” Joseph Brofsky, section head of pediatric dentistry at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park and co-chair of the event said. “Of course, we have dentists and their staff, but we also have residents and dental students, dental hygiene students, high school students and family and friends all coming together to give these kids a dental experience they’ll always remember in a positive way.”
According to Eugene Porcelli, the executive director of the Nassau County Dental Society, the event is the first time many of the children have ever taken a trip to the dentist, some of whom go on to become dentists and dental assistants themselves.
“We try to make it fun for them,” he said. “One high schooler remembered it from 10 years ago and said it was the best school trip she had ever been on. And we had another volunteer who, because of her experience, became a dental assistant and went on to become a dentist. We touch a lot of lives in different ways here.”
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