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Students get a lesson in good dental health

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Students get a lesson in good dental health
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When budgets are tight, families need to prioritize. Basics like trips to the dentist can fall by the wayside, especially if it seems like everything's fine. Our Sarah Blazonis tells us about one program working to break that risky practice.

CICERO, N.Y. -- By now, most of us know the drill, brushing and flossing daily are key to keeping teeth in tip top shape. But for teens like Alexis Garfield, taking the extra step of visiting the dentist twice a year can be a challenge.

"It's kind of hard because my mom is on disability and stuff, so it's hard for her to try to bring me," said Garfield, 15.

The cost of visits can also prevent families from scheduling regular appointments for kids and teens. That's why Aspen Dental teamed up with the Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection or HW-SC, to offer free exams.

HW-SC officials say the program plays a role in their overall goal of helping at-risk students succeed in school.

"We've had, over the years, a number of times where young people were not able to concentrate in school, were not able to take tests, were not even able to even attend school because of illness, and a number of times having to do with dental situations," said HW-SC Executive Director Wayne O'Connor.

And while check-ups like these can go a long way towards keeping mouths healthy, dentists say there are other health issues they can help fend off down the road.

Dentists say problems with teeth can even lead to risks during some surgeries.

"Doctors want it cleared from the dentist to make sure that periodontal disease doesn't exist, because the bacteria can travel to your blood stream and you're going to have problems," said Isam Hamati, owner of Aspen Dental in Cicero.

The CDC reports more than 47 percent of U.S. adults have some form of periodontal disease and visits to the dentist at least once a year go a long way toward making sure teens like those in Saturday's program aren't among them.

This is the fifth year Aspen Dental and the Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection have offered the the program to teens. Officials say a record 80 students took part this year.

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