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6&UNDER FEATURE - Kids learn dental care in kindergarten

Norwalk Reflector Staff • Oct 29, 2015 at 12:09 PM

Kindergarteners can be a tough audience, but a Norwalk dentist and his assistant managed to teach a good lesson, talk with the children and pass out goody bags in just about 15 minutes recently.

The success of the visit was due to both the work of Dr. Adam Sommers and dental assistant Cindy Hahn and that of Donnelle Orzech, a kindergarten teacher at Pleasant Elementary for four years.

Sommers and Hahn walked into the classroom while the students were finishing up another project. Within just a few minutes, Orzech had checked her students’ progress individually, sent them to wait on the carpet (the traditional gathering space for a group lesson for young students) and introduced the kids to Sommers and Hahn.

When the medical professionals took over, it was evident this wasn’t their first time at the helm of a classroom. Their recent visit to Pleasant Street Elementary was their third school visit this year. Sommers has been practicing in Norwalk for nine years.

First things first — Sommers prepared the youngsters for a visit to a dental office. He put them at ease and then put on a doctor’s mask, gloves and then loops (magnifying glasses that he can flip up or down during an examination to get a better look at teeth).

“It’s still me,” he said with the equipment covering most of his face. “I look a little different, but there’s nothing to be afraid of.”

Next step — “How do we prevent cavity creeps?” he asked as he leaned over to be at the children’s level.

Hands flew up. Several children mentioned too much sugar and candy as the culprit. They were on a roll and answered another question correctly — brush at least twice a day.

Now for the stumper — “How do we get in between our teeth to clean?” Sommers asked.

These kids were prepared — dental floss was the chorus answer.

Hahn then brought out a huge pair of teeth and an oversized toothbrush.

“There are five surfaces on every tooth,” she said. “You need to brush at least two to three minutes every time. You also want to brush your tongue.”

Sommers told the children a good way to time their brushing is by singing the alphabet song slowly in their heads twice while they bruth. The doctor also brought out X-rays and showed the youngsters just what a cavity looked like on the X-rays.

Almost every child responded with a waving hand when the doctor asked if anyone had loose teeth now.

Then came the best part of every visi: goody bags. The students eagerly tore into their bags and discovered a mask, gloves, a disposable flosser and a toothbrush. Sommers showed them how to use the flosser, but many of the students said they already knew how to floss.

Once they all donned their masks and gloves, it looked like a room full of budding dentists.

Orzech said she used several activities over the week to prepare her students for the visit by Sommers and Hahn — books, Weekly Reader activities and a craft. And she was also prepared to get them right back on track as their guests gathered their things to leave.

By the time Sommers and Hahn were walking out the door, the students were all sitting on the carpet singing that week’s version of their song — “When you’re happy and you know it, brush your teeth.”

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