Dental students perform cleanings for children at the Oral Health Center's dental clinic

College of Dental Medicine holds second Give Kids A Smile event

Dental Medicine and Dental Hygiene students provide $13,100 worth of free oral health care

The University of New England College of Dental Medicine (CDM) held its second Give Kids A Smile (GKAS) event on Feb. 17, 2023. Regional School Unit 23 (RSU 23) schools, located in Old Orchard Beach, Maine, bussed 73 students ages four through 17 to UNE’s Oral Health Center for the event. Over $13,100 of free oral health care was provided, including dental screenings, cleanings, fluoride varnish, sealants, and oral health education. 

The College of Dental Medicine's first Give Kids a Smile event was held in February 2020. That first event included students from Jameson Elementary and Loranger Memorial Schools.

CDM Dean Nicole Kimmes

CDM Dean Nicole Kimmes

This year, the opportunity was extended to Old Orchard Beach High School students, and two sessions were offered. Students from UNE’s Dental Hygiene program also participated.

“By collaborating to provide this opportunity during the school session, we were able to help ease some of the challenges with finding and establishing a dental home that some of the families face,” remarked Nicole Kimmes, D.D.S., dean of the UNE College of Dental Medicine. “The team at OOB is so wonderful to work with.”

Sarah Burnham, RN, school district nurse, who leads the efforts for the GKAS initiative at RSU 23, said the service was helpful for students whose families were not able to access dental care during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I was so excited to work with UNE again this year,” she said. “This service is so helpful to our kids and families in our community, and we look forward to working with UNE again in the future.”

Therese Cahill, executive director of the Maine Dental Association (MDA), welcomed CDM and dental hygiene students, professional staff, and faculty during an orientation session before the event. “The Maine Dental Association is thrilled to support the return of the University of New England's Give Kids A Smile event and appreciates the opportunity to participate in it,” she said to the group.

“Watching students — our next generation of dentists and dental hygienists — provide oral health care services to so many local schoolchildren was a fabulous sight,” Cahill remarked after the event. “The MDA applauds the efforts of the College of Dental MedicineDepartment of Dental Hygiene, and the UNE students in giving these children their smiles."

Members of The Forsyth Institute, located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, attended the event and connected with children at their oral health education exhibit. Helen Nguyen, D.D.S., M.P.H., clinical director of the ForsythKids Program, provided oral hygiene education using stuffed animal characters and other fun activities.

“It was inspiring and heartwarming to see children of all ages so excited and engaged in oral health and the UNE students treating them with such care and professionalism,” said Forsyth’s director of education, Megan Pugach, Ph.D.

On the ride back to OOB, each child received a goodie bag containing a toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, oral health education materials, activity sheets, and crayons. Parents and guardians received follow-up reports outlining any dental findings, as well as vouchers for their children to receive a free comprehensive oral evaluation, radiographs, and treatment plan for a future visit at the UNE Oral Health Center.

JoAnne Dowd, director of curriculum and instruction at RSU 23, said she was thankful to UNE for partnering with the district to offer GKAS.

“I was privileged enough to see students getting off the bus at two of our buildings, and the students exited the bus beaming and walked proudly through the halls of the school carrying their ‘badge of honor’ goodie bags with pride, and quite visibly,” she said. “I am so proud to have been a part of the inaugural event back before COVID, and I’m glad we came back even stronger.”

A pink poster against a wooden door reads "Give Kids a Smile"

Dean Kimmes echoed Dowd’s sentiment.

“I am so grateful to the dental and dental hygiene students, professional staff, faculty, community partners, and vendors that provided support both in the clinic and behind the scenes to make this event possible,” she stated. “We look forward to seeing the students from RSU 23 again at future events and welcome the opportunity for these children to establish our clinic as their dental home. Maybe one day, we will see some of them join our UNE family as students of dental medicine and dental hygiene.”