Dental hygiene project begins to brighten smiles

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By Joshua Rosario| Published April 12, 2017

The key to a good smile is clean teeth and proper brushing. Physician Assistant Professor and Research Coordinator for Kean University’s School of Physician Assistant Studies, Dr. Denise Rizzolo leads her dental hygiene project to Kean University to keep young teeth sparkling at YMCA during President’s Day.

The program was created to teach young children good dental hygiene like brushing, good and bad foods to eat, and the importance of overall dental health. Rizzolo explained that oral health is poor in this population, there is dental decay, dental pain, more frequent infections and even some deaths in younger populations due to poor oral hygiene specifically abscess of the mouth.

“The reason why I am so involved in oral health, somehow, at some point in healthcare, we have taken the mouth out of the body and we really don’t consider the importance of good

oral health,” said Rizzolo. “Our younger children are most at risk for dental decay and poor oral health.”

Additionally, Kean students from the Pre- Physician Assistant club, Pre-Medical club, Physical therapy club and the Speech Language Pathology join Rizzolo to assist with the program.

“It is not what you would normally think for an outreach project, there is a difference. When you think outreach you think going out and healthy eating,” said Rizzolo. “When they heard oral health I think the students were a little skeptical. What is this about brushing, flossing and eating things that are not sticky, but once they engaged in the project and the process I think they really got a clear understanding of why it is important and they enjoyed working with these kids.”

Moreover, the group first reached out to the Elizabeth YMCA in February and showed children ages three to five the importance of dental hygiene. Rizzolo plans to make the program a monthly, bi-monthly event. She hopes to see it flourish to adults and elderly as well.

“We want to raise awareness to help kids take care of their teeth,” said Roanne Jimenez, senior and molecular biology major. “You need to be an advocate and promote medical education, you have to teach them so you can prevent whatever diseases, this is what we are trying to do, we are trying to help these kids understand their own way the importance of good dental hygiene.”

Each Kean student that attended worked with about two kids each using props of big mouths and toothbrushes. Some kids even practiced on their own and had fun with the props.

“This made me think about pediatrics, I like working with kids,” said Senior, Rohan Panchal. “Everyone is different, all the kids are different, some kids are quiet and really smart, and some are jolly and playing around but they are smart, too.”

The project is funded through a grant given by The National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistant health foundation. According to the NCCPA health foundation’s website it is charitable nonprofit organization that designs solutions for improving the capacity of certified physician assistants to impact quality and accessibility of health care delivery.

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