As part of its commitment to service events, the UNC School of Dentistry is hosting its sixth annual Give Kids A Smile event to provide free dental care to over 150 local children, aged 2 to 18.
This year, the UNC School of Dentistry is the American Dental Association Foundation’s national kickoff site for the Give Kids A Smile program. The student-led event is on Friday, Feb. 1 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Scott De Rossi, dean of the dentistry school, said he is thrilled to have his school selected as the national kickoff site for this event.
“Each year the American Dental Association Foundation selects a premiere Give Kids A Smile program to host the event,” De Rossi said. “This is the first time we’ve been the national site, so we’re really, really excited to be able to highlight some of the great things that we’re doing every day at UNC, but (especially) on this special day of ensuring oral health and maximizing health for North Carolinians.”
Michael Davis, a third-year dentistry student, was instrumental in the process of applying for the national kickoff site.
“Becoming the national kickoff site was important to us because it served as an opportunity to reach deeper into our communities, to provide so much needed care,” Davis said. “Give Kids A Smile day serves as an opportunity for a health reset for many families, and an opportunity to extend access to care that many families haven’t had the opportunity to receive.”
While this year, Davis serves as chairperson of Give Kids A Smile at UNC, he worked on the treatment side the past two years as a graduate student.
“(This event) is transformative,” Davis said. “I think that you have an opportunity to see how health care can impact families and the difference education makes, especially oral health education, in someone’s longevity of their lives, something that they will take with them well into adulthood.”
Since its launch in 2003, the Give Kids A Smile program has provided more than five million children with access to free oral health care. According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children aged 5 to 19 years old from low-income families are twice as likely to have cavities when compared to children from wealthier families. In an effort to improve dental health in lower-income families, the Give Kids A Smile program works to educate children and their families on the importance of early childhood oral health.
“This event does a number of things that have a huge impact,” De Rossi said. “I mean, it’s obviously designed to address the dental health crisis in three areas – providing care now to kids who are suffering from untreated disease, to strengthen and expand the public (and) private safety net for oral health and to bring disease prevention education into communities."
During Friday’s event, up to $8,000 worth of oral health care will be provided to local children by students in the dentistry school. Available care includes dental exams, X-rays, cleanings, extractions, sealants, fluoride, fillings and crowns. Walk-ins will be accepted until 1 p.m., and children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian throughout the duration of their appointment.
The dentistry school’s rehabilitative facility dog, GRAYSON, will also be on-site during Friday’s Give Kids A Smile event.
“Going to a dentist can be real anxiety-provoking for children, especially the real young ones that might be in pain,” said Dr. Jessica Lee, chairperson of Pediatric Dentistry at UNC and GRAYSON’s secondary handler.
GRAYSON joined the School of Dentistry team in October 2018, and has been helping many pediatric patients through treatments since.
“GRAYSON will be walking the clinic floor, going from all the different dental operatories to see if kids need her," Lee said. "She does a high-five, and she does a fist bump.”
In addition to providing free dental care, Friday’s event will host a health fair focusing on full-body health. The fair, sponsored by the dentistry school, will include participants from the UNC School of Medicine, the UNC School of Nursing, UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy, the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and UNC Athletics. Stations within the fair will be aimed toward children, providing education on proper ways to brush teeth and how to engage in an overall healthy lifestyle.
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