UNC Adams School of Dentistry Stages Unforgettable Give Kids A Smile Day
On February 7, the UNC-CH Adams School of Dentistry held its seventh annual on-site Give Kids A Smile® event, on a day set aside by the American Dental Association for the dental community to provide free dental care, health education and activities for children in communities across the country.
The ADA estimates that 450,000 children benefit from more than 1,500 events, made possible by the efforts of more than 40,000 volunteers annually. The School’s clinic alone treated 200 patients, with participating volunteers from across the Adams School of Dentistry family, including students from the Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS), dental hygiene and dental assisting programs working alongside dozens of residents, faculty and staff. In addition to the Adams School of Dentistry’s participation, representatives from other UNC-Chapel Hill schools and units will provide interactive learning opportunities for the children.
In total, more than 450 volunteers delivered dental treatment and education valued at more than $40,000 to 200 children and their families. Care provided ranged from dental exams, cleanings, and extractions to fillings and a root canal.
Unlike many of the Give Kids A Smile days around the country, the Adams School of Dentistry’s event is entirely student-led, through third-year DDS students Kayla Kopczynski, Justin Nunes, Caitlin Baker, and Austin Harbison.
According to Nunes, Give Kids A Smile is a great reflection of what UNC’s Adams School of Dentistry strives to be: a global model of care and discovery. “Our Give Kids A Smile event is unique because it’s student-run, with school-wide participation,” he explained. “As students, Kayla, Caitlin, Austin, and I coordinated all the operations, everything from volunteer coordination and sterilization of instruments to supplying the clinic and making sure our volunteers were fed. We earned some valuable experience of what it takes to run a clinic, strive to provide better care, and perhaps most importantly, reach a broader patient group with our work.”
Kopczynski agreed: “As a school, we strive to passionately serve our community, and this event is a prime example of that. Serving the community means serving everyone, whether it’s those who are growing up without the financial resources to receive traditional dental care, or even the undocumented. It’s so important for us to not only provide care, but also education on oral health for these families, who are doing the best they can with what they have.”
“You really see the best in people on days like this,” she continued. “One of our students examined a child with a badly broken-down and abscessed front tooth that exhibited acute need for either extraction or a root canal. It would have been pretty heartbreaking to extract this child’s front tooth. But we also hadn’t really anticipated offering root canals on permanent teeth during Give Kids A Smile Day, as the procedure is pretty complicated for students and often requires specialized training. Our student volunteer and his attending responded to the situation by tracking down an endodontic resident, who immediately brought his instruments up to our clinic and spent several hours saving this young girl’s tooth. It wasn’t just an example of great dental care, but also an incredible act of compassion.”
“Give Kids A Smile is just a great, fun day. Many of our students are treating children for the first time, getting creative on ways to alleviate the anxiety that many kids have about our tools and instruments.”
Both Nunes and Kopczynski see events like Give Kids A Smile impacting how they practice, as they both graduate and plan to work as pediatric dentists. Kopczynski shared, “It’s eye-opening to me how many families don’t have access to regular dental care. Growing up, I hadn’t really conceived that many kids are never taught how to brush their teeth properly. The more we can teach these families about prevention, the greater impact we can have. The old saying is so true, that a good dentist is okay with putting him/herself out of business! Through Give Kids A Smile, we have a unique opportunity to reach families with limited access to care and to set kids on a trajectory toward good oral and whole-body health.”
Nunes concurred, “Kayla and I are both student leaders, and this event underscores our commitment to leadership in our field. I know that we’ll both continue to lead in pediatric dentistry, and that leadership might look a little different at different points in our careers. I know that I’ll make caring for underserved populations an integral part of my practice, and I’ll also make it a priority in my lobbying efforts at state and federal level. It’s so important for us as dentists to not only serve, but to be advocates. This is why I went into dentistry, to make the biggest impact I can at an individual patient level and promote better oral health and general health for the public.”
Richmond Dental and Medical is a proud sponsor of the UNC Adams School of Dentistry and its efforts to impact the community. To learn more about Give Kids A Smile, visit www.dentistry.unc.edu.