HANOVER TOWNSHIP, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – There’s nothing like a child’s smile to help brighten your day. Helping young children keep that smile healthy is the goal of a program now in its fourth year. Eyewitness News Healthbeat Reporter Mark Hiller checked it out Tuesday to see how it works.
As a young boy sat down in a chair in front of her, Volunteers in Medicine Dental Director Dr. Mahima Singh, DDS, BDS said, “Look up at the sky and open your mouth again.” It wasn’t the kind of exam you might expect to see in school. But a dental exam on Tuesday is exactly what 40 students ages 4 and 5 got at Lyndwood Elementary School.
The children who are enrolled in the Pre-K Counts program got their teeth checked through the Dental Clinic at Volunteers in Medicine. Kelly Ranieli is the Executive Director with Volunteers in Medicine. She said, “Educating the child on good oral hygiene is really imperative.” Without it, research shows it can lead to illnesses which can harm a young child’s well-being, their academic achievement and even success later in life.
For many of these children, it was their first interaction with a dentist, something that should have happened by the age of 2. What Dr. Singh uncovers isn’t always pretty. “I see a lot of dental neglect many times.”
Children living in poverty often don’t have access to early childhood dental care according to United Way of Wyoming Valley which funds these dental checkups. United Way of Wyoming Valley Vice President of Community Impact Jennifer Deemer said, “We would never want dental health problems to become a reason why children are unable to learn in the classroom. If a child has a cavity or has another oral health problem they’re not concentrating on learning their ABC’s.”
“Are you brushing your teeth at night and morning?,” asked Dr. Singh of a young boy. She hopes this dental exam at school is a major step for these children toward a life of good oral hygiene. “Just have that positive relationship right from the beginning from childhood so they’re not intimidated or scared of just going and seeing the dentist and taking care of their teeth.”
United Way of Wyoming Valley provides $30,000 in funding for dental checkups of about 2,000 students a year.