Twenty-five years ago, faculty in the University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine learned parents were brushing their children's teeth with Comet, a cleaning powder more suited for a bathroom sink. They immediately realized they needed to raise the "dental IQ" in the community.
The dental school soon launched "Smile Education Day," a program that strives to teach children about the importance of dental hygiene, proper nutrition and the effects of sugar, and the connection between oral health and general health.
Today, hundreds of dentists, hygienists, dental assistants and dental students from UB and local communities will visit more than a 100 schools across Western New York to educate nearly 15,000 children.
The annual event, now in its 22nd year, is organized by the UB Smile Team, School of Dental Medicine and University Pediatric Dentistry. The program coincides with Children's National Dental Health Month.
Throughout the day, kids in grades four through six will view oral health presentations and receive career guidance on becoming a dentist.
"I love knowing that we are raising the 'dental IQ' of the children in our community," said Deborah Licata, outreach coordinator for University Pediatric Dentistry. "We're making friends and changing the sometimes not-so-positive impression of 'the dentist.' "
This year, organizers will reach out to more of Buffalo's diverse communities, and dental students will learn about the area's refugee population.
Smile Education Day is one of the more than 400 community outreach events the UB Smile Team participates in every year.
"We don't talk, we deliver," said Paul Creighton, interim chair for the department of pediatric and community dentistry, and assistant dean for community affairs in the UB School of Dental Medicine. "Our school is guilty of delivering and that's a good thing to be guilty of."