Bright Smiles for the Holidays

By: Ashfaq Rahman

All students whose families accepted a generous invitation have had their teeth examined and cleaned, courtesy of Forsyth Kids, a free dental program that provides children in underserved Massachusetts communities with high-quality preventive dental care and oral health education. To encourage students to care for their teeth at home, each participant leaves the dental clinic with a new toothbrush and tube of toothpaste. Extras are left with the school nurse to be given out as requested.

To encourage students to care for their teeth at home, each participant leaves the dental clinic with a new toothbrush and tube of toothpaste. Extras are left with the school nurse to be given out as requested.

Last week, Forsyth Kids set up their portable and disposable equipment at Nathaniel Wixon Middle School in South Dennis. “Every fall Forsyth contacts each school nurse to set up visits for cleanings, fluoride treatments and temporary fillings for students,” said Wixon nurse Kathleen Downing. All students bring home a packet of information and a questionnaire asking about medical and dental history and the family’s insurance status.

On clinic day, dentists, hygienists and certified dental assistants arrive at the school early to set up shop in a designated area. Four or five students are served simultaneously, with several quietly seated, awaiting their turn. The clinic is a happy place, with no pain inflicted. Patients leave smiling, fielding jokes about keeping their mouths open for so long without emitting any sounds.

Should a student have major dental needs, pediatric dentist Jennifer Soncini, director of ForsythKids, is on hand to do temporary work to tide the student over. “Forsyth immediately contacts the child’s parent with information on a local dentist who has agreed to continue treatment free of charge,” Dowling said.

How Forsyth works

Founded in 1910 to provide free dental care to children living in Boston, the Forsyth Institute, an affiliate of Harvard University, is the world’s leading non-profit organization dedicated to prevention, treatment, research and education in oral health and related biomedical science. Between 1914 and the mid-1950s, approximately 500,000 children received dental care at Forsyth’s Boston facility, courtesy of its school-based, cavity-prevention program.

ForsythKids was launched in 2003 as a pilot program traveling to elementary schools in Boston, Hyannis and Lynn, three communities with either shortages of dentists or other limits to children’s access to care. Its success led to grant-funding, allowing ForsythKids to serve thousands of children throughout eastern Massachusetts.

Forsyth offers its dental program to all children regardless of their ability to pay. When a child is covered by a dental insurance policy, Forsyth bills the insurance company when possible to offset the clots of providing care to all. "as a non-profit, we require ways to offset costs, and we depend greatly on philanthropy to aid our mission, Said Jennifer Kelly, associate vice president in Forsyth's office of advancement and external affairs.

“We confront one of today’s most pressing oral health challenges, delivering effective oral health care to children at risk,” said Soncini, a 14-year veteran of ForsythKids. Soncini sees her work as a way of reaching out to communities and their children. “It’s a way of giving back by helping kids who don’t have access to dental care,” she said. “After we check on them, if they need more work, we find a doctor in the community who will provide a dental home for future work.”

Dental hygienist Meredith McEwen was among the Forsyth staff working at Wixon last week. “I’m a firm believer in what we do,” she said. “We all are or we wouldn’t be here.”

Forsyth is a great institute which aims at delivering effective oral health service to children without any charge. Read more from:

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