More than 1,500 schoolchildren received dental screenings at an event organized by the Nassau County Dental Society at the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City on Friday. In many cases, this was the first time the children had been seen by a dentist. Credit: Newsday/Howard Schnapp

Scores of yellow school buses lined up along the circular driveway at the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Uniondale, unloading more than a thousand youngsters Friday. Although viewing exhibits and other entertainment was on tap, the main event for the children was undergoing dental screenings and treatment organized by the Nassau County Dental Society.

Over the course of the day, organizers said roughly 1,500 to 1,600 children ages 4 to 9 from about 20 schools, mostly in South Nassau, and a few in Queens and one in Suffolk County, were expected to be seen in the dental society's 20th annual "Give Kids A Smile" program, which provides free screenings and follow-up care if necessary.

The children also could enjoy cartoons and a puppet show while waiting or after finishing their exams. Mets mascot Mr. Met also made an appearance.

"There is a tremendous underserved population in this country," said Dr. Michael Shreck, a periodontist in New Hyde Park and co-chair of the society's Give Kids A Smile program. "Even though Nassau County is one of the most affluent in the country, there’s still lots of kids who don’t get the care they need."

Azria Barrett, 7, of the Academy Charter School in Uniondale,...

Azria Barrett, 7, of the Academy Charter School in Uniondale, gets a dental exam from Karen Zheng, dental resident at Northwell Health, at the Give Kids A Smile event at the Cradle of Aviation Museum on Friday. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Dr. Joseph Brofsky, another event co-chair who also is the section head of pediatric dentistry at Cohen Children's Medial Center in New Hyde Park, said toothaches were "the number one reason" children missed school. "A lot of these kids can't go to the dentist. They get a checkup here, they get fluoride varnish and then we see them at the hospital at Cohen sometimes for follow-up."

Dentists, hygienists and other medical professionals from Northwell Health, Stony Brook School of Dental Medicine, Touro College of Dental Medicine, New York University College of Dentistry, Hofstra University's Public Health program, and One Brooklyn Health participated in “Give Kids A Smile Day” to mark Children's Dental Health Month.

And Henry Schein Inc., a health care products company based in Melville, provided the medical materials used at the event. 

Dr. Rhona Sherwin, a clinical professor and director of pediatric outreach at Stony Brook University's dental school, along with about 30 dental students and about a dozen dental residents from the school, were on hand. Stony Brook provided a special sealant used on the children's teeth. 

Sherwin said the state Department of Health had determined that the "best public health measure we could do for these children is seal their first permanent molars because we can’t fluoridate the water system. But if we can get their first molars sealed, that will be a great benefit to the children since caries," using the dental term for cavities, "is the number one public health issue with children." She said the sealant covered the molars, preventing food and bacteria from getting into the grooves of the tooth and forming cavities.

About 1,500 children received dental screenings at an event sponsored...

About 1,500 children received dental screenings at an event sponsored by the Nassau County Dental Society at Dentists at the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City on Friday. Credit: Howard Schnapp

The Suffolk County Dental Society is scheduled to hold its own dental screening event for children in April at the Long Island Aquarium in Riverhead, Sherwin said, adding that Stony Brook conducts two events a year of its own.

 The Give Kids A Smile event also examined children from the Henry Viscardi School in Albertson, which educates children with severe physical disabilities. Dr. David Miller said the children received the exams and fluoride treatment "and a number of them we were able to flag because they had dental cavities. And now we're going to find a dental home for them. We can refer them to dentists that specialize in [providing care to those with] special needs." 

Michelle Stanziale-Campbell, a first-grade teacher at Bayview Avenue School in Freeport, was shepherding her class of 17 pupils. "I've been teaching here 20 years," she said. "This is my 10th year doing this. It's one of the best field trips. The children love coming to the museum. They love getting their teeth checked. They feel proud to show off their teeth; their loose teeth, their missing teeth. Teeth are very, very important in first grade, especially when there's a loose one."

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