By Logan Reardon
VCU Dental Care hosted their annual “Give Kids A Smile Day” on Feb. 1 at the Lyons Dental Building. The event ran from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., providing children up to 18-years-old who do not have dental insurance with dental services like exams, cleanings, X-rays, fillings and extractions.
“Give Kids A Smile Day” is part of a national movement in honor of National Children’s Dental Health Month. Patrice Gray — Marketing Director for VCU Dental Care — said they have been hosting the event for as long as she has been with the company.
“The program was created by the American Dental Association, and our practice has been participating in this event for years. I’ve been with the company for six years and we’ve done it every year,” Gray said. “For the last five years, we’ve had a great impact on the community, having well over 800 patients totaling more than $300,000 in donated services. It’s something that we look forward to each year. It’s a very important event. It’s very exciting.”
Although “Give Kids A Smile Day” is part of the national movement by the American Dental Association, Gray said VCU normally “does its own thing” in terms of activities throughout the day, such as giveaways and “a lot of fun stuff for patients and their families.”
“Give Kids A Smile Day” is an event powered by local volunteers such as VCU dentists and “other outside dentists that donate their time.” Gray said the event is “primarily student run.”
“Our students map out the schedules and help with the logistics and the planning of the event,” Gray said.
Gray said the biggest impact the event has on the community is preventable dental care some families cannot afford that negatively impacts a child’s life can be fixed at no cost to them.
“There are so many statistics that support the fact that kids are missing days out of school because of toothaches, because of simple, preventable dental care,” Gray said. They’re not going to school and it’s interrupting their lives. Everything starts in the mouth; the health of all of us.”
Gray said the biggest incentive for families to attend the event is the comfort of knowing they are going to be taken care of.
“It’s an opportunity that they don’t have to worry about dental care,” Gray said. “For kids who are underinsured or don’t have insurance at all, this event gives them one day a year that parents don’t have to worry about how they’re going to pay to do extractions or these cleanings or a check-up. They don’t have to worry about that, we take care of them that one day a year. Everything is absolutely free, whatever we need to do, and we make sure that they get connected with a dental home, so it’s just an overall good event.”
Gray said VCU Dental Care was hoping to see “at least over 100” kids for the event, a number close to previous years. She also gave a rundown of the types of services provided by using statistics from last year’s event.
“Last year, we did 35 extractions, 101 fillings, 123 cleanings, 130 exams, 20 crowns, 123 fluoride treatments and we also did a root canal. Those are huge benefits to those coming to “Give Kids A Smile Day.”
Dhwani Patel — a sophomore in VCU’s School of Dentistry — was volunteering at this year’s event. She said she was volunteering at “Give Kids A Smile Day” to help kids feel calm before seeing the dentist.
“It’s a pretty cool event,” Patel said. “I love working with the kids. This was a pretty cool place and event to see some kids and help them get over their fear of seeing the dentist.”
Patel and another VCU School of Dentistry sophomore — Soo-Yeon Sohn — dressed up in costumes as common dental hygiene objects to greet the kids at the event. They were stationed at a table providing books to read and puzzles to solve for the kids waiting to be seen.
Gray said the supplies needed for “Give Kids A Smile Day” are donated from dental corporations and other partners of the event.
“We’ve had donations from Colgate, from Bien Air and from other corporations who actually donate products, supplies or whatever we need to get the job done. We have a bunch of different resources that we pull from,” Gray said.
Gray said that even if the child does not need major dental services, it is still good for families to come to the event just for a quick examination.
“Even if people come by and they just want a dental check just to see what’s going on with the kids, it’s an awesome event to come to for that purpose,” Gray said.
Gray also said the event is used as a platform for getting information out to the public about important resources they can take advantage of.
“We coordinate the vendors so that we can make sure we connect the community to these resources that they can use,” Gray said.
Apart from “Give Kids A Smile Day”, VCU Dental Care also hosts select free dental check-up nights for anyone in the area. Regular dental screenings are free, but only certain eligible individuals may qualify to receive further dental care at no cost. The next free dental check-up night is Feb. 18 from 5-7 p.m. at the Lyons Dental Building.