Give Kids a Smile provides free dental care for youth

Kylie sits with Super Tooth, who was on hand to help calm the children, many of whom were not familiar with the workings of a dental office.

BLOOMFIELD, NJ — Give Kids A Smile Day, a national American Dental Association effort to provide children with free oral care on the first Friday of February, was observed Friday, Feb. 2, in Bloomfield and Glen Ridge at two venues.

In Bloomfield, 24 children were given an exam, cleaning and fluoride treatment at KinderSmile Foundation and Oral Health Center, located at 10 Broad St.

According to Nicole Panzica, the deputy director of the facility, a letter was sent home with each child informing the parent or guardian of the examination results and whether any follow-up treatment was necessary. Panzica said 13 of the 24 children required a follow-up visit to a dentist.
“They need more than just a cleaning in the next six months,” Panzica said.

There were three dentists on duty at KinderSmile, along with two hygienists and one dental assistant to attend to the children, who had been bussed in by several Head Start schools located in East Orange and Montclair. In the lobby, where the pre-school patients milled about, Captain Super Tooth, played by D.J. Brown, held court. An emotional-support dog, Beau, was also present, along with eight administrative volunteers. Delta Dental of NJ, and BCB Community Bank sponsored the three-day event, with Delta providing a dozen non-clinical staff members.

In an interview on Monday, Feb. 5, Panzica said KinderSmile had added two more days of dental care to the schedule: Monday, Feb. 5 and Thursday, Feb. 8. Another 19 children were seen the first day and 26 more were anticipated for the second. She pointed out that Give Kids A Smile Day was previously held at the Central Presbyterian Church in Montclair.

“Last year, it was a one-day event,” she said. “But we wanted to gi
ve the children the experience of a real visit to the dentist. We were very excited to have the schools come to our dental home.”
According to Panzica, KinderSmile provided more than $5,000 worth of free dental work Friday, Feb. 2 and Monday, Feb. 5. But she said KinderSmile will provide free dental care to any uninsured child under the age of 18.

The second venue for Give Kids A Smile Day was at Mountainside Hospital, on the Glen Ridge-Montclair border. In a telephone interview earlier this week, dental hygienist Yvonne Goldman reported a decrease in the number of children at this event compared to previous years.

“We started seeing a good 50 kids,” she said of previous “Smile Day” clinics. “Last year, there was approximately 30. This year, about 28.”
She attributed the decline in the Affordable Health Care Act.

“Since 2014, it’s mandatory for children to have insurance,” she said. “This is why the reduction in the number of uninsured children.”
All the children who came to the hospital were Essex County residents, except one from Roselle. The hospital had six dentists working with one hygienist, four dental assistants and two non-clinical staff. The work performed included cleanings, extractions and fillings. Records were created and kept on file for each patient and each child was given a new-patient packet and instructions to take home.

The state does not require a dental residency, Goldman said, but Mountainside has a staff of five dentists in residency. She also provided a little information about teeth.

At a year old, a child has about 16 baby teeth, and a year later has 20. That is the total number of baby teeth a person will have: 10 on top and 10 on the bottom. Adults teeth begin to emerge when a child is between 4 and 6 years old. The bottom teeth come in before the top teeth and generally the six-year molars come in around the time the lower front two teeth begin to loosen. Six-year molars are permanent teeth that do not replace baby teeth. An adult has 32 teeth.

“A small child may not realize they have a cavity,” Goldman said. “A cavity in a baby tooth will weaken an adult tooth below it. This is a burden on the immune system.”

Give Kids A Smile Day recognized its 18th national anniversary in 2018.