AP NEWS

Dentists deliver lessons on oral hygiene

February 19, 2019

Seven-year-old Joseph Fatoki took to heart the visit by the representatives of Indigo Orthodontics on Feb. 12 to Harmony Science Academy-Katy.

“We learned about our teeth and how to keep them clean, how long to brush and when you go to the dentist,” he said. “You brush your teeth at least 2 minutes,” he added. And, vegetables and fruits are a preferred treat over candy. But should someone eat some candy, “you brush your teeth right after you eat the sugar,” he said.

While he nailed the basics, he demurred on whether he would pursue dentistry as a career. “I’m not thinking about that yet,” he said.

He is among more than 650 students in grades kindergarten-fifth who received a visit from a representative of an area dentist as part of Dental Day at the academy, 22400 Grand Corner Drive in Katy. In addition to Indigo Orthodontics, other participants included Katy Dental Experts, Pediatric Dental Safari Katy, Kidstown Dental and Hanis and Stevenson Orthodontics.

Dentist Jeffrey Chu of Katy Dental Experts and orthodontist Shad B. Hanis of Hanis and Stevenson Orthodontics are pros on the speaking circuit.

“I simply love to talk to kids and interact with them,” Chu said. “I participated in the dental program at Harmony School because I wanted to introduce and stress the importance of oral hygiene to our younger generations.”

Hanis said he speaks to around 4,000 third-, fourth- and fifth-graders each February in the Katy area. “I feel that going into schools and teaching about what I love doing makes a difference. I believe that kids today need positive role models and positive examples of what they should be doing in life. As I teach kids about their dental health, I hope that at least one kid will go home and say, ‘I can and will do better’ and as a result will not have to suffer from some of the problems that poor oral health can create,” said Hanis.

“I always start every presentation with some standard questions such as. ‘Who forgot to brush their teeth last night?’ ‘Who left home this morning and forgot to brush their teeth’ ‘Who has not flossed themselves this year?’ Some teachers are shocked that so many kids raise their hands, but I stopped being shocked long ago,” said Hanis. “We live in a time where kids will make sure they use up every second of their screen time and yet will spend no time on things that actually matter. I hope that as I go into schools, I can inspire and motivate kids to have better habits, understand that education can open doors, and let them know that I care about their problems and then if they need help to come see me. I hope that through my presentations I can help kids realize that going to the dentist or the orthodontist can be wonderful experiences and even if they do have some serious issues we will help them. Ultimately, my message is simple….get in the habit of doing small and simple tasks each day and good things will happen.”

According to a 2018 report issued by the Texas Health Institute, tooth decay is the leading chronic illness among school-age children. Both Chu and Hanis said they’ve encountered classes where more than 50 percent of the students have raised their hands when asked if they have had a cavity.

Chu said, “I do believe there is a problem in this (Katy) area because it’s very diverse. We have people here from different backgrounds, different IQ levels, and even different countries. This can play a huge role in what they are taught when it comes to oral hygiene. For school-aged children, the best prevention for premature tooth loss and decay is brushing regularly and for the appropriate amount of time, as well as seeing a dental health professional as soon as their teeth start coming in and every 6 months thereafter.”

Hanis said, “Tooth decay is the leading chronic illness among school-aged children and adolescents, but the more amazing thing is that in most cases this is an entirely preventable disease. This is a global issue including the city and community of Katy, Texas.”

This is the second year the academy sponsored Dental Day. Michelle Schaefer, Academy engagement coordinator, said she and Nancy Liedtke, district PR coordinator, talked about what the school might do during National Children’s Dental Health Month. “It’s something that’s been growing every year,” she said, explaining the academy had more dental participants this year. “We hope to expand it even further,” she added.

Dental participants visited students in classrooms, which Liedtke said provided a more interactive environment and better grabbed the attention of students as opposed to a large group assembly. “It’s a little bit more meaningful in small groups.”

Tatiana Franco, facility manager, and Natalie Sanchez, dental hygienist, both of Kidstown Dental, spoke to fourth- and fifth-graders. They presented a visual about oral health. “Why are teeth important?” asked Sanchez. After taking answers from students, she said, “They help us with appearance, chewing and talking.” She also stressed the importance of brushing and flossing and showed graphic photos of teeth affected by gingivitis and periodontitis to illustrate the importance of taking care of one’s teeth.

karen.zurawski@chron.com