Dental School mobilizes to “Give Kids a Smile”

Faculty and students pitch in to provide free dental care to area children

Students and faculty at the UMKC School of Dentistry took a break from their usual academic pursuits on Friday, February 6, to pursue instead something a bit more altruistic. All hands were on deck as nearly 400 local elementary school students converged on the Dental School as part of the American Dental Association’s annual Give Kids a Smile day. In cooperation with four area school districts, the children were pre-screened and invited based on need to receive free dental care.

Virtually all of the school's students and clinical faculty were on hand to care for patients.

Virtually all of the school’s students and clinical faculty were on hand to care for patients.

“The kids we bring in here are ones that really need dental work and can’t afford it,” said Dr. Michael McCunniff, associate professor and director of Outreach Programs at the UMKC School of Dentistry. “Many parents have a lot of financial issues to deal with right now and, too often, dental care is not considered a high priority.”

The annual program goes beyond standard checkups. All of the 240 dental stations in the Dental School’s main clinic were devoted to Give Kids a Smile and virtually all of the school’s students and clinical faculty were on hand to care for patients.

“We did everything from cleanings to home-care instruction to extractions, fillings — pretty much the whole gamut,” Dr. McCunnif said. “Not only is it a tremendous opportunity for the kids, it is also a great practical learning experience for our dental students.”

Clinical faculty supervised the dental care delivered by the Dental School students, which included third- and fourth-year dental students and senior dental hygiene students. First- and second-year students were on hand to observe and assist, along with Penn Valley dental assisting students, members of UMKC’s Pre-Dental Club and dentists from the Greater Kansas City Dental Society.

Caring for the Community

“Being able to give back to the community using the skills I have learned in dental school is very rewarding,” said Lisa Metzen, a fourth-year UMKC Dental Student. “To meet and interact with these children is so fun. The smile on their face when I give them a toothbrush is just priceless.”

The UMKC School of Dentistry conducts Give Kids a Smile in partnership with the Score 1 for Health community health program sponsored by Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences and the Deron Cherry Foundation. The children participating in Give Kids a Smile were selected during routine health screenings that Score 1 for Health performs at elementary schools in the KCMO, KCK, Hickman Mills and Raytown School Districts. Score 1 for Health is subsidizing and arranging the bus transportation for the children participating in Give Kids a Smile.

“Many of these children have never even been to a dentist. We want to make their first experience a positive one and give them the care they need and might not otherwise receive,” said Dr. Becky Smith, assistant clinical professor at the School of Dentistry. “By participating in Give Kids a Smile, we can lend our talents to a vulnerable population who really need our care. Being able to give is the greatest gift; it warms your heart.”

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