On Friday, Feb. 5, more than 320 volunteers at the UNC Adams School of Dentistry provided $27,315 of free oral health care services to 136 children of essential workers as a part of the school’s eighth annual Give Kids A Smile® (GKAS).
Each year, the GKAS coordinators typically aim to increase the number of children impacted by the event and expand assistance to children in need. Last year, volunteers provided care to a record-breaking 200 children.
Since this year’s event could only accommodate a limited number of patients due to COVID-19 restrictions, the GKAS student coordinators wanted to use this opportunity to give back to essential workers who have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic.
“This year we chose to focus our efforts on treating the children of essential workers in our community: first responders, nurse’s aides, hospital administration, custodial staff, university dining, hospitality staff—all of the unsung heroes that have worked so hard to keep our community afloat during one of the most difficult years,” said third-year dental students and GKAS Student Coordinators, Hannah Smith, Sarah Morgan, Emily Bausback, and Gayane Paravyan.
While there are so many challenges in the world today, we feel that oral health and access to care should not be one of them. That’s why, now more than ever, we feel so passionate about ensuring our GKAS program can continue to support the oral health of children in our community.”
With COVID-19 screening, increased PPE and physical distancing, volunteer students, residents, faculty, staff and alumni, were able to provide dental screenings, dental exams, x-rays, fluoride treatment, sealants, fillings, crowns and extractions to children who needed them. The Tooth Fairy even stopped by and handed out stickers to patients!
“In my short time at the Adams School of Dentistry, I continue to see how incredibly dedicated our employees and students are to giving back to their community,” said Interim Dean Julie Byerley, MD, MPH. “Especially given the challenges of COVID-19 on this year’s event, I am both impressed and grateful for all of our volunteers, and particularly the student coordinators in organizing such a fabulous event.”
The coordinators also utilized local businesses in as many aspects of the event as possible – from the snacks to the helium tank for balloons. Predental students who usually are able to volunteer in person were recruited to help bring virtual oral health instruction to local classrooms.
Through the ADA Foundation’s Give Kids A Smile program, launched nationally by the American Dental Association in 2003, more than 5.5 million underserved children have received free oral health services.
These free services are provided by approximately 10,000 volunteer dentists annually, along with 30,000 other dental team members. The Adams School of Dentistry’s event was generously sponsored by Richmond Dental and Medical, as well as several alumni, faculty and staff.