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Give Kids a Smile Day in Brooklyn

Nothing but the tooth
New York Teacher
Dr. Amrita Batheja is ready to examine a 4th-grader.
Kimberly Thomas with students and Director of Pediatric Dentistry Sheeba Kurian.

Fortune smiled on more than 150 students from three Brooklyn schools on Feb. 16, which was Give Kids a Smile Day. The annual event sponsored by the UFT and Brookdale University Hospital featured dental screenings, lessons on oral hygiene and a talk about careers in the dental industry to celebrate National Children’s Dental Health Month. Brookdale blocked off a portion of its dental clinic for the lucky “patients” — 2nd- to 5th-graders from PS 219 in Brownsville, PS 233 in East Flatbush and PS/IS 66 in Canarsie. Parents get the screening results, and the schools follow up to see if students’ dental needs are being met. “I think the parents appreciate getting information that can help them help their child,” said Kimberly Thomas, a physical education teacher at PS 219. The children were thrilled to receive backpacks containing brightly colored toothbrushes and toothpaste. Read the children's thank-you letters. One 2nd-grader was so excited she started brushing in the waiting room. “That was one of mine,” said Gail Ericson, the chapter leader at PS 233. “They really loved their gifts. They told me, ‘I’m going to show you my teeth tomorrow.’” Most children already knew about brushing, Ericson said, but they “realized how important it is to brush after eating.” They saw a video and demonstrations of flossing and brushing using small models of teeth and learned that protecting teeth — by wearing a mouth guard when playing sports, for example — is part of dental health. Younger students received protective helmets to wear while biking. Thomas said they stayed engaged because the lessons were “visual and hands-on.” The 46 students from her school got an added health benefit: Thomas led them on a brisk, nearly mile-long walk from their school to the hospital.