Give Kids a Smile

Photography by Jim Thomas and Armando Diaz, School of Dentistry

Elementary school children receive free care at UMKC School of Dentistry

Initially, the elementary students who showed up to the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Dentistry were quiet, a bit apprehensive even.

But the appearance of the Tooth Fairy, and welcoming UMKC junior-year dental students and senior hygiene students put grins on most of their faces, the raison d’etre of Give Kids a Smile.

The UMKC School of Dentistry has been hosting free, comprehensive Give Kids a Smile dental clinics each February for the past 11 years in conjunction with the national Give Kids a Smile program sponsored by the American Dental Association. Many of the children who receive care during the event do not have access to the benefits of regular dental care, and some children have never received a professional cleaning and suffer from cavities, decay and infection.

This year, 120 children were selected during routine health screenings performed by Score 1 for Health at Pitcher, Oak Grove and Gladstone elementary schools.

Each child received an exam, cleaning and fluoride treatment, and if needed, sealants, restorative care and oral surgery. After their time in the dental chair, kids were treated to face painting, temporary tattoos and a Disney movie, courtesy of the Pediatric Education and Dental Outreach Club at the UMKC School of Dentistry. All the children were given a toothbrush, toothpaste and dental floss, donated by Procter & Gamble and Delta Dental of Missouri, and a book donated by the Kansas City Public Library. Delta Dental provided transportation and lunch for each child.

According to Michael McCunniff, director of UMKC oral health outreach programs, Give Kids a Smile accomplishes multiple goals for the school and oral healthcare.

“Serving the needs of underserved children is obviously the primary purpose of the program, but there are other benefits as well,” he said. “For instance, the health screenings at the area elementary schools and the oral healthcare delivered at the UMKC School of Dentistry enable public health professionals to collect data that can be used to address the oral healthcare needs in communities throughout the metro area. Give Kids a Smile also enables our dental and dental hygiene students to participate in community-based programs that enrich and expand their educational experiences.”


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