About 30 undergraduate and graduate students from the School of Health Professions and Human Services volunteered at the annual Give Kids a Smile Day, where 1100 children from low-income homes across Nassau County received free dental screenings.
Sponsored by the Nassau County Dental Society (NCDS), Give Kids a Smile Day is part of a national campaign by the American Dental Association Foundation to provide care and raise awareness of the need for good oral health. NCDS’s program this year focused on children ages 5 to 7 from underserved communities in Nassau County including Baldwin, Hempstead, Freeport, Westbury, Uniondale, and Roosevelt.
Led by students, faculty and alumni from the Master of Public Health (MPH) program, undergraduate students in health science and community health as well as graduate students in health administration assisted with class registration, data collection, and dental health education at the event, which was held at the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City on March 24. Some also worked as student ambassadors who gave museum tours.
“This is my third year helping to run this wonderful annual event. As a Give Kids a Smile committee member, dental hygienist, public health professional, and educator, this event truly combines all my passions. You can’t have good overall health without good oral health and this event teaches children that at an early age,” said Danielle Piriz, a 2015 graduate of the MPH program who served as a key organizer for the event, managing registration and clinic operations.
“There is a real need for our event among the undeserved, low-income communities we invite,” she added. “For the past three years, about 35% of the children we’ve screened have had multiple areas of possible dental cavities and were in urgent need of dental care. Almost half of the children we see each year have not been to a dentist before coming to our event.” The program also alerts families that there are local federally qualified health centers such as NuHealth where their children can receive regular dental care for free or reduced cost.
MPH students will be responsible for all data entry and analysis of information regarding each child’s screening, under the supervision of Program Director Anthony Santella.
“We value our long standing partnership with the Nassau County Dental Society and its Give Kids a Smile committee,” said Dr. Santella. “It’s allowed MPH and other Hofstra students to get hands-on experience in implementing dental public health education and promotion events targeting Nassau County’s most vulnerable children.”
Dozens of volunteer dentists and dental hygienists provided the children with free health screenings and fluoride varnish treatments. The children also toured the museum, watched an educational video, saw a puppet show, met characters including Mr. Met and Ronald McDonald, and ate healthy snacks as part of the event.
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