On Friday, Feb. 3, more than 200 volunteers welcomed more than 100 Durham Early Head Start three-year-olds to the UNC School of Dentistry for free dental services and overall health education. The event was the fourth annual Give Kids a Smile Day held at UNC.
The children received dental treatment from UNC School of Dentistry student dentists, hygienists and residents. The care, provided more than 70 of the attending children, included an oral screening, fluoride varnish treatment and, when necessary, referral to another facility for further dental care. If provided through private practice, the care would have cost approximately $5,900 in total.
“There are scary noises. There’s water. There’s suction. There’s buzzing. There are motors. I can understand that [coming to the dentist] can be scary and overwhelming,” said Natalie Dunlop, DDS candidate 2018 and event co-chair. “We just want to show them that it’s not scary.”
The school’s Give Kids a Smile Day event is different than most because it’s an interprofessional event. In addition to receiving dental care, the children attend a health fair. Volunteers from dentistry were joined by those from the UNC School of Medicine, the UNC School of Nursing, the Eshelman School of Pharmacy, the Gillings School of Global Public Health and UNC athletics to offer a focus on overall health. The multi-station health fair included one station designed to get the children moving, a “Be the Dentist” station where the children dressed like a dentist, and a variety of other stations that shared information on hand washing, the difference in medicine and candy, good nutrition habits, how your body works, and how to brush your teeth.
“By bringing the three-year-olds, we permeate the [Head Start] centers with knowledge about health care,” said Deric Boston, the health manager at Durham Head Start. “This type of event helps them to deal with some of their preconceived notions. If their family is not pressed to go to the dentist, this gives them a desire to get themselves to the dentist.”
Dunlop planned the event with fellow co-chairs Taylor Harlan and Janice Ko, both DDS candidates 2018, co-chair Jaehee Yoo, DDS candidate 2019, and a committee made up primarily of student volunteers.
The school’s Give Kids a Smile Day was again held in conjunction with the American Dental Association’s annual Give Kids a Smile Day, a program that began 15 years ago to address and raise awareness of untreated dental disease in children.
Photo by Melanie Busbee and provided by the UNC Office of Communications and Public Affairs.