College of Dental Medicine students provide free care to children during national event
UNE dental students, faculty, and professional staff provided 46 children with free oral health education, dental screenings, cleanings, fluoride, and sealants as part of Give Kids A Smile, the American Dental Association Foundation’s annual volunteer initiative.
Children from Old Orchard Beach’s Jameson Elementary School and Loranger Memorial School came to UNE’s Oral Health Center (OHC) to receive the services.
“The University of New England College of Dental Medicine was excited to participate in the Give Kids A Smile program,” stated Jon Ryder, D.D.S., M.S., dean of UNE’s College of Dental Medicine. “Oral health is integral to overall health. Untreated dental disease is painful and affects a child’s physical, emotional, and social development. Kids with untreated dental decay can’t eat or sleep properly, and they can’t concentrate in school.”
Dental disease is preventable, and it starts with access and education.
“UNE is a private school with a public mission,” commented Angela Westhoff, executive director of the Maine Dental Association. “I think this was a great opportunity for the dental students to see pediatric patients and give back in a way that's meaningful. This may be the first time some of the children have seen a dentist, so the Oral Health Center may eventually become a dental home for some of their families.”
The event was featured on WGME.
“It's a great introduction for coming to the dentist,” Courtney Schapira, D.D.S., UNE group practice leader, told WGME. “It is not meant to be a scary experience, and it is not a scary experience, but for whatever reason it has that stigma, and it should not.”
UNE students, faculty, and professional staff typically go out to several schools each year to provide preventative services for children. With this event, the schools provided transportation to the OHC, which helped introduce the children to the dental environment.
“We get the kids to feel comfortable in the dental chair, and they’re excited to be here with their friends while they're receiving the care,” said Emily Richard (D.M.D, ’21). “It was a challenge and a learning experience because not everyone gets to work with kids in their patient population here at the Oral Health Center.”
Thousands of dentists across the country give their time each year as part of Give Kids A Smile, providing underserved children with much needed dental care.