SPRINGFIELD — Dentists, oral health advocates, early childhood care providers and educators, and oral health officials joined Partners for a Healthier Community to recognize local “Oral Health Heroes” for their work in bringing a pilot oral health program for preschoolers to Western Mass.
Frank Robinson, executive director of Partners for a Healthier Community and vice chair of the statewide Oral Health Task Force, introduced the Bringing Early-Education Screening and Treatment (BEST) Oral Health Project to over 150 people at Springfield’s Early Education Center on Catharine Street. The program is designed to treat preschool children up to age five in child care centers throughout Hampden County.
During the event, a group of preschoolers treated the audience to a toothbrushing song. In addition, an on-site mobile dentistry unit allowed a dentist and dental assistants to examine preschoolers’ teeth directly across the hall during the ceremony.
Robinson presented Oral Health Heroes plaques to state Sen. Gale Candaras (D-Wilbraham), state Sen. Stephen J. Buoniconti (D-West Springfield), and state Rep. John W. Scibak (D-South Hadley) for their roles in garnering the support of the Legislature and securing funding for the BEST Oral Health Project.
Candaras, who was the lead sponsor of legislation for funding BEST, presented citations to “Individual Oral Health Heroes” Linda Calkins of the Early Childhood Centers of Greater Springfield, Nancy Johnson of Tufts Community Dental Program, Dolores Mulvihill of the New North Citizen’s Council, Avril Reid of Seventh Day Adventist Junior Academy, and Vicky Danio of Springfield Day Nursery.
Springfield Day Nursery, New North Citizens Council, Seventh Day Adventist Junior Academy, Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, and Early Childhood Centers of Greater Springfield were also recognized and awarded “Organizational Oral Health Hero” plaques.
“I am delighted to see the rapid advancement of this vital program,” Candaras said. “The journey toward ensuring that no child in the Commonwealth begins school without seeing a dentist has begun, and I expect this program will serve as the road map for other communities to follow. I congratulate all of you for the excellent work you have done to offer the BEST Oral Health Project to those children in Hampden County who need it most.”