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More than 1,200 Long Island children get free dental exams

Hundreds of Long Island children had something to smile about Friday, as dentists and other volunteers gave them free dental screenings, cleanings and gifts.

More than 1,200 children between the ages of 4 and 8 received the free examinations for “Give Kids a Smile” Day, organized by the Nassau County Dental Society and held at the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City. More than 100 dentists, hygienists and other medical professionals were among the nearly 400 volunteers at the event.

The children also received free eye screenings from the Long Beach Lions Club See Program.

“I brush my teeth every day,” said Ryan Moloney, a first-grader from Henry Viscardi School. The 6-year-old said he takes such good care of his teeth that he’s never had cavities. While a trip to the dentist can trigger fear in some children, Ryan was enjoying himself, and was especially excited for the upcoming puppet show, where kids could brush the puppets’ teeth.

“This is the best trip ever,” he said.

There was plenty of other kid-friendly entertainment during the event. Music played, and televisions were set up in the museum’s main hallway, while the Farmland Fresh Dairy Cow and Mr. Met walked around. Some students got a tour of the museum, too.

Children also received free fluoride treatments, and perhaps more importantly for the young patients, goody bags. The bags were filled with a toothbrush, toothpaste, stickers, pamphlets on good oral health, educational coloring books and crayons, among other gifts.

For Dr. Michael Shreck, the event was an opportunity to teach children about good dental hygiene and to catch any issues.

“If a dental problem is caught early, we can effectively treat it and prevent serious problems,” said Shreck, assistant clinical professor of the dental medicine department at the Long Island Jewish Medical Center. “Dental problems is one of the leading reasons children miss school.”

Children with physical disabilities also took part in the event, for the first time since it began 15 years ago. A group of first-grade students from the Henry Viscardi School in Albertson, a K-12 school for children with severe disabilities, had their teeth screened and cleaned, and received fluoride treatments from dental professionals and students, including from the Stony Brook School of Dental Medicine.

“It’s wonderful to see kids with disabilities participating,” said John Kemp, 68, the president and CEO of the Viscardi Center. “The event is extremely important to educate our kids about good oral care, and translates it to good overall health care.”