The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Friday January 28th

UNC dentistry students teach low-income kids tooth care, nutrition

It’s not every day that kids jump up and down at the prospect of getting their teeth cleaned.

But at Friday’s Give Kids A Smile event, children were more than excited to receive dental treatment.

UNC’s School of Dentistry reached out to the community to extend health care to children of low-income families from the Durham area.

The Give Kids A Smile events are normally held at private practice dental offices, but UNC recruited about 200 students and faculty from the Gillings Schools of Public Health, School of Nursing, School of Medicine and School of Dentistry to volunteer.

The national campaign has treated 346,503 children so far in 2014.

The UNC students and faculty attended to nearly 100 children from Durham Head Start, which is a federally funded preschool program for low-income kids.

This first event of its kind at UNC was organized by three student co-chairs from the School of Dentistry who spent the day dressed as a toothbrush and teeth.

Bedecked in colorful balloons, the Koury Oral Health Sciences Building established a casual learning environment for the children, comprised of numerous stations aimed to strike a balance between fun and learning, with each teaching a different health practice.

The event focused on more than just dental hygiene said Ben Anders, co-chairman and second-year dental student.

“Oral health and overall healthcare are (inseparably) linked and important,” he said.

Activities featured specialist students to better convey their respective messages.

Nutrition students provided snacks and spoke about how to eat right, and medical students taught proper care with informative coloring books and a puppet show.

The dentistry students also demonstrated healthy dental practices by dressing the kids in scrubs and masks and allowing them to brush and floss the teeth of stuffed animals.

An emphasis was placed on ensuring that the children were having an enjoyable time so that they would stay focused on the lessons.

“The objective (was) to show the kids that the dentist isn’t scary, while teaching the importance of brushing your teeth,” said Anne Leggett of the Dental Assisting Program.

university@dailytarheel.com

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