SARANAC LAKE - First graders from Petrova Elementary School joined the staff of the Tri-Lakes Center for Dentistry in Saranac Lake for an office field trip to learn more about ways to prevent cavities, the importance of healthy eating and dental procedures.
The classes were divided into three groups to go into various stations. One station covered healthy snacks and brushing while another group looked at large-scale models of teeth with dental sealants and fillings. The last station allowed the children to role-play, taking turns being the dentist, dental assistant, parents and patient.
"We want to give the children a comfortable experience at the dentist," Petrova Elementary School dental hygienist Suzanne Snizek said. "Some of these children have either never been to the dentist or only come because of a painful problem. This visit gives them an opportunity to experience a nonthreatening, hands-on, positive approach to meeting the dentist."
Dr. Small D.D.S. and Jess Willett, C.D.A. of the Tri-Lakes Center for Dentistry make first grader Evan Willett comfortable while helper Owen Keal looks on.
The elementary school hygienist position is provided by the The Saranac Lake Voluntary Health Association on Main Street. The Saranac Lake Voluntary Health Association noticed a need for an elementary school dental hygienist in 1981. For more than 30 years, SLVHA has provided a hygienist to be part of the Saranac Lake School District.
According to Snizek, with the support of the Voluntary Health Association, she is sometimes the first experience children have with any type of dental care. She is able to check their teeth, provide fluoride and apply sealants (with parental permission). These local fieldtrips to the dentist just further support her work in the schools.
"Dr. Neill and Dr. Small (Tri-Lakes Center for Dentistry) take half of the first grade for these tours, which ends with a short movie on dental care and each student leaving with a dental goody bag," Snizek said. "Dr. Murray's office on Church Street takes the other half of the students so the whole grade is able to have a positive dental experience. It is important to promote dental care early, though this has turned out to be the best age for the tour. The children are able to retain and gain important information regarding dental health and hopefully take it home with them."