A brighter smile: Local dentist visits the Early Childhood Center

By: Maria Allard | Warren Weekly | Published November 28, 2012

 Dental hygienist Michelle Crossley shows 4-year-old Navifa Mustaque how to properly brush her teeth.

Dental hygienist Michelle Crossley shows 4-year-old Navifa Mustaque how to properly brush her teeth.

Photo by Donna Agusti


WARREN — Dentist James Karam has a suggestion for parents trying to get their young children to properly brush their teeth.

“Brush the inside of the mouth first because those always get missed,” he said. “Then we brush the front, the smile part, and then the chewy portion.”

And parents: you don’t need a lot of toothpaste. Karam, whose office is located in Warren, recommends using a pea-sized amount of toothpaste per brushing.

“It’s the smallest amount they need to use,” the dentist said.

On Nov. 7, Karam and dental hygienist Michelle Crossley visited the Early Childhood Center in Center Line Public Schools to talk to the young students about the importance of taking care of their teeth.

“When do we brush our teeth?” Karam asked them. “In the morning and when we go to bed.”

Through a number of demonstrations, Karam and Crossley offered tips for students to get the most out of brushing their pearly whites. During one activity, the students — ages 2 1/2 to 5 — used a toothbrush and a dental mold Crossley held up to practice brushing methods. 

With poster cards, Karam and Crossley also discussed the foods that are harmful to the teeth and those that are OK. They held up various foods labeled “bad” and “good” to get the students thinking about their daily eating habits. The dentist said its OK to have a “bad” food here and there, but only after filling up on the “good” foods.

“Take five foods off the good list to get your wonderful sweet,” he said.

As a child, Karam’s mother watched the family’s sugar intake.

“We were only allowed candy on Sundays,” he said. “She knew the sugar would do a lot of damage.” 

It’s also recommended that young children use fluoride toothpaste, in an effort to prevent tooth decay. With more and more children drinking bottled water, Karam said they aren’t receiving enough fluoride for their teeth, and because of it, tooth decay is on the rise.

“When I got out of school in 1984, kids did not have the decay they have now,” the 1984 University of Detroit graduate said. “There’s no fluoride in the bottled water. They’re not getting the same amount, and we have more sugary products.” That could lead to tooth decay.

“You take the bacteria in the mouth with the sugar we intake,” Karam said. “That produces an acid. The acid starts to eat at the enamel.”

Karam, who has four sons, visits schools on a regular basis to discuss dental hygiene. He also has high school co-op students work for him while they are still in school.

That’s what Crossley did while attending Lake Shore High School, where she graduated in 2008. Crossley was enrolled in a co-op program that allowed her to work 15 hours per week in Karam’s office. She would leave school during the last hour to go to work.

“Being in the assistant program helped me on the basics,” Crossley said. “It allowed me to have a job and learn even more.” 

In May, she graduated from the University of Detroit-Mercy as a dental hygienist.

Karam’s enthusiasm for his professional rubs off on others, too. He often also visits with students and church youth groups that are considering entering the field of dentistry.

“I always wanted to be in the medical field,” Karam said. “I just enjoyed the science. I got to use my hands. I loved building things and restoring things.”