Making Sure Kids Keep Smiling

Northeast  |  February 24, 2016

Everybody understands the message in a smile – it’s part of a universal human language. But if you suffer from tooth decay, offering a smile may not be as easy. The best way to prevent that is with oral and dental care that begins in childhood.

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On February 24th, Tzu Chi partnered with the Queens County Dental Society (QCDS) to provide free oral screenings and instructions on oral hygiene to elementary school students at PS 201 in Pomonok, a working class neighborhood in Queens, New York.

The QCDS is part of the New York State Dental Association, which in turn is a member of the American Dental Association (ADA). This event was part of ADA’s national Give Kids a Smile program, under which dentists across the country partner with others in their community to provide dental services to underserved children. Sucha preventative measures are vital:

Children who don’t see a dentist are more likely to miss school because of infected teeth and gums. They grow into adults with severe oral health problems. Dental disease can be prevented and can only get worse if untreated.

Eight dentists offered their services at the event – the volunteer doctors were members of TIMA (Tzu Chi International Medical Association) or the QCDS.

In total 212 students from PS201Qs were attended to, then received oral hygiene kits (mouth mirror, tooth brush and paste) as a gift to encourage continued oral hygiene.

For some students, the oral screening revealed the need for treatment. Those whose families can’t afford the cost were referred to volunteer dentists for free dental care, while those with coverage or who can afford treatment were asked to see their dentists.

For the 16 Tzu Chi New York volunteers who offered their love and care at the event, PS201Q is an old friend. Tzu-Chi started its Happy Campus program there in 2012, which promotes humanistic education and includes the distribution of weekend bags of food for kids in need. In anticipation of the Give Kids a Smile event, volunteers launched a dental hygiene awareness program 3 weeks in advance, teaching brushing skills using an instructional video, and encouraging questions and discussion among classmates.

At the start of the Give Kids a Smile event, some of the students looked anxious and scared, but with the love and encouragement of Tzu Chi volunteers – whom students know so well – more and more smiles began to appear. And that was the point of it all – to keep those smiles coming from now into the future!

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