Xerox Hawaii, with the help of local dental professionals, provided free dental screenings and education to hundreds of kindergarten through fifth grade students at Kahakai and Kealakehe elementary schools this week.
The screenings, part of Xerox’s nationwide “Making Smiles Brighter” program, provide many low-income students with their first dental check-up. This is the first time “Making Smiles Brighter” visited the Big Island.
“We’re aiming to educate people on the importance of proper dental hygiene and how it impacts overall health,” said John Provenza, Executive Account Manager, Government Healthcare Solutions, Xerox. “By providing a little bit of education at an early age, we hope to help improve the quality of people’s lives over a long period of time.”
West Hawaii Community Health Center dentists Kevin Nietzer, DMD, and Gerald Lee, DDS, along with hygienists Donna Altshui, RDH, and Susan Smith, RDH, provided oral health screenings and examinations to students, many of whom had never been to a dentist before.
In addition to the check ups, the team of local healthcare providers showed the children how to properly brush their teeth, and Xerox gave the students goodie bags with toothbrushes, toothpaste, and coupons for dental hygiene products.
Dental problems are one of the most frequently cited reasons for school absences. Children from low-income families are less likely to see a dentist regularly and will suffer from twice as many cavities as their peers.
“These children have dental needs that haven’t been met for so long,” said Dr. Kevin Nietzer, West Hawaii Community Health Center. “There are lots of kids with cavities and urgent needs who have been in pain for a long time. This program finally allows them to be screened so we can determine their needs, and then invite them to the clinic so they can start to feel better and not be in pain anymore.”
The dentists and the students found some common ground.
“Providing dental care for children is really rewarding,” Nietzer said. “Seeing the change from when they are super nervous at a young age to when they are a little older and come back in, hop into the chair and have a good experience. They realize that we are here to help them, not hurt them.”
“I was scared to come to the dentist, but he checked my teeth and said everything was OK. I learned to brush my teeth twice a day and to eat fresh fruit and vegetables and not candy. I even gave the dentist a great big hug,” said Wendell Doran, 6, Kahakai Elementary School.
Xerox’s dental outreach initiative has screened more than 35,000 children in 11 states and the District of Columbia.
“Our students at Kahakai and Kealakehe Elementary will be able to learn how their overall health and well-being are tied to proper dental care and screenings,” said Art Souza, complex area superintendent, Honokaa-Kealakehe-Kohala-Konawaena. “Mahalo to Xerox for bringing this fantastic opportunity to our community.”
The “Making Smiles Brighter” Facebook page enables parents stay in touch with the dentists who screen their children. The page also has a database of resources about proper dental care — like entertaining videos, books and other activities – to help make brushing fun and easy.
— Find out more: