Give Kids a Smile - Statewide Award Announced: Bassett Program Improves Children's Dental Health

MyHealthy Decisions

February 26, 2016

Michele Brown, son Carson.jpgThe New York State Dental Foundation (NYSDF) 2016 Give Kids a Smile (GKAS) Award was presented Feb. 23 to the Rural Health Education Network of Schoharie, Otsego and Montgomery Counties (RHENSOM), a program of Bassett Medical Center’s Research Institute. The award recognizes organizations that expand access to oral care for children. RHENSOM was recognized for its work to help integrate oral health risk assessment, education and fluoride varnish treatments into well-child visits.

Ms. Laura Clark Leon, Foundation Executive Director, states “RHENSOM and Bassett Medical’s programming brings together health care professionals, schools and families to make real, meaningful solutions to the problem of childhood caries.”

Last year, Bassett Medical Center in Cooperstown began offering parents the opportunity to have fluoride varnish applied to their children’s teeth during pediatric-well child visits. The program has since expanded to include Bassett’s pediatric clinic at 125 Main St. in Oneonta and, with the help of funding from the NYSDF, will be expanded to additional pediatric clinics in the Bassett Healthcare Network.

The application of fluoride is an evidence-based practice proven to reduce the incident of cavities.

“It just makes sense to offer fluoride application during well-child visits,” says Chief of Pediatrics Dr. Philip Heavner. “Studies clearly show how important good oral hygiene is to a person’s overall physical well-being. So starting preventive efforts early, as soon as a child’s first teeth erupt, and providing education around good oral health will help us get ahead of any issues.”

In New York State, 44 percent of children have experienced tooth decay by third grade. Locally, the numbers are very similar with the highest rate occurring in Herkimer County where 42.5 percent of children suffer from tooth decay by third grade; 22 percent have untreated tooth decay (Schuyler Center for Analysis & Advocacy, 2015).

Poor oral health affects a child’s nutrition, learning, school performance and self-esteem. Left untreated, tooth decay leads to painful infection and can develop into a life threatening condition.

Betsy Bray, a registered dental hygienist and the galvanizing force behind the application of fluoride varnish  in Bassett’s school-based health centers and expansion to network pediatric clinics, notes, “Fluoride is important for the overall development of teeth at all stages. The first baby teeth come up between six and nine months of age, although the first time a child gets an actual dental checkup is usually age three. That’s a large gap of time where no one is really focused on oral health, so we’re working to identify kids at risk for dental cavities and provide interventions for them. Fluoride varnish helps to strengthen the existing tooth enamel and prevents against future cavities.”

The $4,740 NYSDF award to RHENSOM will also support the purchase of children’s oral health storybooks for elementary school libraries and the Reach Out and Read Program at primary care clinics throughout a six county region. Additionally, the program will use the funds to purchase start-up fluoride varnish for the regional clinics and for oral health bundles for schools that actively promote good lifestyle choices through social media. 

The Foundation’s GKAS Award is an access-to-care endeavor designed to encourage parents, health professionals and policymakers to address the year-round need for oral health care and education for all children.

Dr. G. Kirk Gleason, Foundation chair, noted, “The NYS Foundation has a strong commitment to improving the oral health of the public, especially children. Effective education and expanding access to care are important public health priorities.”

About the NYS Dental Foundation

As NYS dentistry’s premier philanthropic and charitable organization, the NYS Dental Foundation is a catalyst for uniting people and organizations to make a difference through better oral health. Since 2007, the Foundation has given more than $160,000 to community health centers or service programs as part of its Give Kids a Smile Award program. The Foundation recognizes these programs’ ability to build, expand or enhance education, access and/or capacity with respect to oral health care for children.

About Bassett Healthcare Network

Bassett Healthcare Network is an integrated health system that provides care and services to people living in a 5,600 square mile region in upstate New York. The organization includes six corporately affiliated hospitals, over two dozen community-based health centers, 20 school-based health centers, two skilled nursing facilities, and other health partners in related fields. Bassett Medical Center, the foundation of the network, is a 180-bed acute care inpatient teaching hospital located in Cooperstown, NY. To learn more about services available throughout the Bassett Healthcare Network, visit Follow Bassett on Facebook and Twitter at and

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