Dental School mobilizes to offer free dental care to area school children
The smiles of local elementary school children filled the clinics and corridors of the UMKC School of Dentistry during Give Kids a Smile day on Friday, February 4. All of the 240 dental operatories in the UMKC School of Dentistry’s main clinic and virtually all of the school’s students and clinical faculty were devoted to providing free oral healthcare to about 300 low-income children. This is the sixth year the School of Dentistry has participated in Give Kids a Smile.
The School of Dentistry conducts Give Kids a Smile in partnership with the Score 1 for Health community health program, which is sponsored by the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences and the Deron Cherry Foundation.
The children participating in Give Kids a Smile at UMKC 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 also subsidizes and arranges the bus transportation for the children to travel to and from the School of Dentistry.
The Give Kids a Smile oral healthcare and education provided by the School of Dentistry is delivered by third- and fourth-year dental students and senior dental hygiene students, with assistance from first- and second-year dental students. Senior dental hygiene students are also involved with treating the children. Other participants in UMKC’s Give Kids a Smile activities include Penn Valley dental assisting students, members of UMKC’s Pre-Dental Club and dentists from the Greater Kansas City Dental Society. The oral healthcare delivered by UMKC’s dental and dental hygiene students will be supervised by clinical faculty and volunteer dentists.
Give Kids a Smile is sponsored by the American Dental Association (ADA). According to the ADA “the Give Kids a Smile name was first used by the Greater St. Louis Dental Society and a group of dentists who set up a temporary full-service clinic that treated nearly 400 children over two days in February 2002. Since then the program has grown enormously.”
According to Dr. Michael McCunniff, director of UMKC oral health outreach programs, Give Kids a Smile accomplishes multiple goals for the school in particular and oral healthcare in general.
“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 Dental School 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.”