Being afraid of going to the dentist is an age-old anxiety and the butt of many jokes, however 17 Touro College of Dental Medicine students educated, entertained and screened 150 Lawrence school district 4- and 5-year olds to help alleviate that concern during a three-hour program last month.
Split into groups, the dental students set up stations where the kindergartners underwent a quick exam, taught how to properly brush and floss their teeth and offered time to play educational games. There was music, goody bags dispensed and the children tried on pint-size lab coats.
“It’s important to give kids a positive experience with the dentist from the earliest age,” said Dovi Grosser, a Cedarhurst native and fourth year dental student who organized the event. “We wanted them to see that keeping your teeth healthy can also be fun. I had a patient in the clinic who is 85 years old and had extreme anxiety because of a negative childhood experience at the dentist. She still hadn’t gotten over it years later. We want to start these kids off with the feeling that dentists are friendly and maintaining oral health is a good thing.”
Lawrence Board of Education members Heshy Blachorsky, Abel Feldhamer and Dr. Asher Mansdorf, who is also a dentist and an assistant Touro professor, attended the Give Kids a Smile event.
“This program goes to the idea of educating the whole child. We teach academics but it’s also important to teach important life skills and this event helps us do that in a fun way,” said Kathleen Graham, Lawrence kindergarten principal.
Dr. Edward Farkas, a Lawrence resident and vice dean of the dental college, said this was the first time Give Kids a Smile was brought to a local community school.
“We have done these events at our dental school but we now see how well it works to bring the program to the community and have plans to do this at other schools in different locations over the next year,” he said. Many children don’t have access to dental care and this program is a first step.”
Carina Lakharam, 5, said that “my mom brushes my teeth for me but now that I learned how to brush and floss, I’m going to try to do it myself at home.”