Rochester, N.Y., dental practice targets area schools
During National Children's Dental Health Month last February, the dental office of Dr. Bradley Kaufman spread out to various schools in the Rochester, N.Y., area to relay a message. That message, according to Jeffrey Doebler, RDH, is “oral hygiene, nutrition, and safety, and [the presentations] cover all aspects of dentistry that apply to children, including what to expect at a dental visit.”
Doebler's description of the office activities in February earned the office top honors in a vote of essays and photos at the PennWell Dental Group community (PDG) (community.pennwelldentalgroup.com). The National Children's Dental Health Month contest was sponsored by Ultradent.
The 12-year dental hygienist wrote on the site that Dr. Kaufman's office had been undertaking the school education projects for 10 years. He wrote on the PDG site, “Since our program's inception, we have educated over 6,000 (yes, six thousand!) elementary school children. Our program gets bigger, better, and reaches further every year. By the end of our February 2009 program, we educated close to 1,000 students in more than 12 schools this year alone.
“Yes, we are all exhausted by the end of February, but this program represents why we all became dental professionals, in dentistry's two most basic forms: education and prevention.”
Doebler told RDH afterwards that the staff members focused primarily on third grade classes at the schools, but did visit some kindergarten through fourth grade classrooms. Overall, presentations were delivered to 30 classrooms in 2009.
Dr. Kaufman explained why the program is so important to his practice and staff members.
“The school program is a very important way that my team and I can give back to the community,” the dentist said. “By reaching out to the surrounding elementary schools and educating these children, we hope to ease the children's anxieties about visiting the dentist and reinforce the importance of good oral hygiene.
“If we can educate the children, who might not understand the importance of good dental care, and minimize future dental problems for them, it is all worthwhile. The most rewarding part of these programs is when I run into one of the students at a ball field or school and they come running up to tell me that they are now brushing and flossing more and that they went to the dentist and had no cavities.
“Giving back to the community has always been very important to me but I feel our school program is the most important program and also the most fun. I also have to give a large amount of credit to my team since this program has taken off from one classroom to over 20 classrooms each year. I could never do it by myself.”
Besides Dr. Kaufman and Doebler, the staff members who participated in the 2009 program are Courtney Poray, Melissa Sheldon, CDA, Aimee Synesael, Michelle Pilaroscia, RDH, Francine Luciano, RDH, and Elizabeth Babiuk, CDA. In addition, the dental practice's records technician, Elizabeth Christopher, coordinates with the school nurses about which schools and classes the presenters visit.
Doebler said that the dental office begins preparing for National Childrens Dental Health Month each November during a three-hour staff meeting.
“We then have separate smaller meetings in December and January to put together our handouts, and to make sure we have all of the supplies we need,” he said. “To initiate our dental health program, we compose and send a letter to all of the local schools, addressed to the school nurse. The nurses then approach the teachers of the third grade classes and determine if they are interested in our presentation. We have them respond to us via email by late January, and use the responses to schedule our presentations.”
When February arrives, the staff members split up into groups of two, and visit the schools on Fridays. Doebler said each group talks to as many as five classes a day and deliver a one-hour presentation.
“With growing demand for our program, this year we actually visited classrooms on every Friday in February and March,” Doebler said.
The dental office also sponsors a contest between the different classes. The activities in the contests change annually. In past years, schoolchildren participated in brushing contests or a written exam.
“This year, we did a Web-based hide-and-seek, where kids used our Web site's educational pages to find hidden teeth.”
The winning class is invited to a pizza party sponsored by Dr. Kaufman. But all students receive a bag donated by Dr. Kaufman that contains items such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss, pencils, erasers, pencil sharpeners, and rulers, as well as patient education literature for parents.
The schools visited during the 2009 campaign were:
- Crane Elementary School, Rochester, N.Y.
- Leary Elementary School, Rush, N.Y.
- Sherman Elementary School, Henrietta, N.Y.
- Bernabi Elementary School, Spencerport, N.Y.
- Canal View Elementary School, Spencerport, N.Y.
- Munn Elementary School, Spencerport, N.Y.
- Taylor Elementary School, Spencerport, N.Y.
- Neil Armstrong Elementary School, Rochester, N.Y.
- Walt Disney Elementary School, Rochester, N.Y.
- Manor School, Honeoye Falls, N.Y.
- Saint Lawrence Catholic School, Greece, N.Y.
In his submission to the PDG community, Doebler wrote, “At the end of our presentations, we always leave plenty of time to answer any and all questions that the children may have. As you can imagine, during the Q&A time, we can learn as much as the kids, and are often very amused by some of their comments. Through our years of service, we have learned why fishing may be one of the most dangerous sports for your teeth; how a run-in with a cow can cause both a person and cow to lose teeth; how a skunk will steal a retainer if given the chance; and, quite curiously, if you lose a tooth while vacationing in Mexico, the tooth fairy still gives you U.S. dollars for your tooth instead of pesos.”