by Eric D. Lehman, Associate Professor, Communications Specialist
Sponsored by the American Dental Association (ADA), the annual “Give Kids a Smile” event is an opportunity for all uninsured and underinsured children ages 1 to 18 to take advantage of full preventive dental hygiene services and dental examinations free of charge. Since 2003, the program has raised awareness nationally about the importance of oral health. “The focus of Give Kids A Smile is to start them early and get them to a dental home,” says Director of the Fones School of Dental Hygiene Marion Manski, MS, RDH. “And to provide access to oral health care for those who can’t afford it.”
At UB’s Health Center Clinic, a dozen faculty and 83 first- and second-year dental hygiene students joined together to provide healthcare and instruction to children from the Bridgeport area. Fifty-one children were given exams and prophylaxis in one day: Fones hygienists provided 17 full-view x-rays, 29 bitewings x-rays, and 17 sealants, with a total private practice dollar value of services provided at $11,355. Some families were referred to UB by their dentists because they were uninsured.
“Seeing children as young as age one and young adults receiving care and educating parents are important parts of the day,” says Manski. “According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and the American Academy of Pediatrics, age one should be the first dental visit.”
Give a Kids A Smile has become a key part of UB’s dental hygienist experience. Students need to care for different populations of patients before they graduate, and the annual event allows them to see both children and adolescents. Students often find that the day has a different rhythm from most clinical work, and everyone seems to have a good time. “It’s fun for them and for us,” said Manski. “We put smiles on a lot of faces today.”
This annual program at UB is continuing to help the Bridgeport community, our dental hygiene students, and the children themselves. “We worked as a team should work; all together for a common goal,” says Manski. “This is public health at its finest.”