Dental Health Day to Keep Oral Disease Away

Posted: February 8, 2011 in Community, Health, Multimedia, New York City

A trip to the dentist may not be exciting to a child, but dental disease is no laughing matter.

On Sunday afternoon, members of the New York State Dental Association and the Second District Dental Society hosted “Dental Health Day” at the Brooklyn Public Library’s Central Library branch to inform parents and children about the importance of dental hygiene.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tooth decay, also known as dental carries, affects children in the United States more than any other chronic infectious disease and can cause serious infections.

Dr. Angela DeBartolo, dentist in Bay Ridge and professor at NYU’s College of Dentistry, has been participating in Dental Health Day for 20 years. Dr. DeBartolo knows the consequences of poor dental care during childhood can be detrimental.

“The fallacy is that primary teeth or baby teeth don’t need to be restored and what happens lots of times is if a baby tooth is carious, it can cause an infection that will affect the permanent tooth,” Dr. DeBartolo said. “Infection and abscesses in the mouth can cause fevers and infections systemically throughout the body. So yeah, there’s definitely an importance of oral health as a child. I think a lot of people are not aware of that.”

Karen Berckmann of Park Slope just happened to have taken her son Kai, 15 months, to the library to play. After listening to Dr. Reyes’ lecture, Berckmann considered trying dental wipes, as she previously brushed Kai’s teeth with no toothpaste.

“I didn’t actually know this [event] was going on but we are working on his teeth brushing,” Berckmann said. “So it was good timing.”

The event was held in the Youth Wing for children between one and twelve years old, who received free toothbrushes, toothpaste, and coloring books. Dental care pamphlets, presentations and an educational video were provided to parents and children.

Dr. James Sconzo, director of New York Methodist Hospital and SDDS member, participated in the activities, including being the puppet version of Dr. Rabbit. Dr. Sconzo believes the event is fun and educational for both children and parents.

“As you sit there and screen these kids you’ll see a lot of kids- more kids than you’d like to- with a lot of areas of decay and some of these teeth are blown out,” Dr. Sconzo said. “So it’s good that we can see it so we can see what’s going on in the community, but the parents are also there so we can bring it to the attention of a parent.”

Selma Cohen Saban of Ocean Parkway went to the library with her children. While her daughter Sarah, 7, was participating in the lecture given by Dr. Reyes, Cohen Saban was able to learn also.

“We’re going to start flossing,” Cohen Saban said. “We really just brush right now.”

The event has been organized at the Central Library branch by Dr. Reneida E. Reyes, Chair of the Oral Health Committee for SDDS and pediatric dentist, for 28 years.

“If you tell the average parent how to maintain the child’s well being, I guarantee you they’re committed to it,” Dr. Reyes said. “No parent would deliberately and willingly put their child at risk for dental disease. And I have an expression: ‘Happiness is a healthy mouth.’ And all you have to do is look at a child who’s in pain because of dental disease. That’s not a happy child.”

Colgate’s “Bright Smiles, Bright Future” program provided free dental screenings to children in a van outside of the library. Dentists and hygienists providing the screenings were able to inform the parents if their child had cavities, good cleaning habits, or if braces are needed.

Dr. Steve Scotto, general dentist in Long Island and teacher at New York Methodist Hospital, was volunteering in the Colgate van. Dr. Scotto believes its best to intervene while children are still young.

“We’re all creatures of habits, so the sooner you can start building good oral hygiene habits the better it will be the rest of their lives,” Dr. Scotto said. “It’s like the old saying: ‘An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.’ ”

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