A few weeks ago I had a unique opportunity to step back from the demands of being a dental student to participate in an exciting community event. I met with an energetic class of first graders from a local NYC public school, P.S. 142, for their Fall for Healthy Smiles Brush-a-Thon, an annual educational campaign through New York University’s Pediatric Dentistry Clinic, Oral Health America (OHA) and NY State Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh.
The day kicked off with a performance by Dr. Molar Magic, an NYU dentist alum who combines his passion for magic with his mission to educate children about the benefits of good oral health. Dr. Molar Magic’s engaging show taught the students important lessons about keeping their teeth healthy while encouraging them to laugh and have fun.
Then came the Brush-a-Thon for children and adults alike, led by Clinical Associate Professor Dr. Jill B. Fernandez and her smiling dinosaur pal Flossisaurus. As a group, we spent two minutes simultaneously brushing our teeth while watching a music-filled specialty cartoon. This kept everyone engaged and made the time fly by!
As dental students, it’s too easy to get wrapped up in the busy schedule of exams, studying, clinical training, and classes. Through all of the stress, we sometimes lose sight of why we are here. Witnessing these children get excited about brushing their teeth and hearing their laughter permeate through the clinic was a much-needed reminder of how important our role is in shaping the oral health of our young patients.
This event was also a reminder that our work as dentists does not end in the dentist chair. Achieving good oral health outcomes begins with creating good brushing habits early on. But it must continue by working for patient education, improved health literacy, increased access to quality dental care and advocating for policies to create oral health equity. We cannot effectively treat teeth without addressing the potential barriers to care for each patient.
Oral Health America, the sponsor for our Brush-a-Thon, is an organization that connects communities with the resources they need to achieve good oral and overall health. OHA has made health equity a priority by advocating for innovative policies and evidence-based interventions. OHA conducts and supports numerous national charitable, educational and communication programs that help keep oral health on the forefront of our policies and health care system.
There are many ways that you can get involved with Oral Health America. Here are just a few:
- Advocacy Week: join representatives from across the country for a week on the hill to speak out about policies that impact oral health
- Advocacy alerts: sign up to stay up-to-date with current issues
- Congress: contact your representatives to advocate for the 34 million family caregivers caring for older adults
- Smiles Across America: find out more about creating a local event here
Visit https://oralhealthamerica.org/ to learn more about this organization and ways to get involved!
~ Michael Epstein, New York ’17