Sun shines on GKAS national kickoff

Howard University College of Dentistry

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Reception smiles: GKAS volunteers and community partners meet Feb. 6 to herald GKAS 2014. Shown are (from left) Timothy J. Sullivan, Henry Schein Dental, president, North America Dental Group; Candy B. Ross, director of industry and professional relations, KaVo Kerr Group; Dr. Charles H. Norman, ADA president; and Dr. Barbara Shearer, director, scientific affairs, Colgate Oral Pharmaceuticals. Photo by Washington Talent, Photo & Video

Washington—It couldn’t have been a more promising smile for the national kickoff Give Kids A Smile Day at the Howard University College of Dentistry Feb. 7, on message, forward looking and engaged with the community, even the capricious weather sunny and dry.

It’s the morning after a DC Dental Society Foundation reception (more about that later) honoring the GKAS volunteers, community partners and corporate sponsors who provide free oral health services in clinics and private practices across the nation and who’ve been doing it for 12 GKAS years at Howard, which was hosting its 13th annual children’s clinic.

Trenton Franklin and Darius Ferguson, smiling even as they clambered into the dental chair, were among the first of 175 DC Ward 7 school and pre-school children, ages 3-11, who would be seen by Howard dental students and DC Dental Society volunteer dentists. There’s the “thank you” message of the Feb. 6 reception and there’s a message in those smiles.

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Winning smile: Trenton Franklin happily grabs a seat in the dental chair at the Howard University GKAS for his initial exam. Photo by Namita Gautam, DC Dental Society
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Busloads of fun: Washington, D.C.-area kids are transported by bus for screening, treatment and oral health education at the Give Kids A Smile event at Howard University College of Dentistry. Photo by Namita Gautam, DC Dental Society

Ask Trenton and Darius where they got those smiles and they say, “At home.” Ask the dentists and students what that means, and they’ll tell you the GKAS children are increasingly in better oral health and their families more engaged with their oral health.

“I’ve been seeing less cavities,” said fourth year student Fatemeh Mojarrad. “The kids are doing much better taking care of themselves.”

Some 5 million underserved children have received some type of free health services through Give Kids A Smile since the ADA took the program national in 2003, ADA President Dr. Charles Norman told the VIP reception audience at the Ronald Reagan Building on Pennsylvania Ave. midway between the White House and Capitol Hill. “Since then it’s become the world’s largest oral health charitable program.”

Nor is it a one-time event, extending throughout the year in clinics and private practices across the nation and engaging an expanding community of sponsors and volunteers. An estimated 350,000 disadvantaged children will receive some type of free health service at 1,500 GKAS events in 2014, Dr. Norman said. This can include screenings, cleanings, X-rays, sealants and fluoride varnish applications, restoratives and education materials. “This great work will be possible thanks to more than 9,000 dentists and 28,000 other dental team members and volunteers from the community,” he said.

“Over the past 11 years since the start of the program, in DC we have screened approximately 2,500 children and provided over $ 700,000 of dental treatment to underserved children in our community,” said Dr. Sally Cram, president of the DC Dental Society Foundation. “Our collaboration with Howard University School of Dentistry has not only helped us treat these children but has forged a strong mentoring relationship with the students and our DC Dental Society members.”

Speaking of the students, some 175 second, third and fourth year dental and third and fourth year hygiene students were on hand and staffing the Howard GKAS clinic under the mentoring eyes of DC Dental society volunteer dentists, many of them never having missed one of these events.

And the students scheduled a Feb. 8 walk-in clinic offering free teeth cleaning for adults and children, oral hygiene instruction and free blood pressure and oral cancer screenings as an extension of their Feb. 7 GKAS community service.

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Group effort: Volunteer dentists, dental students, sponsors and community partners gather for a group photo at the Howard University College of Dentistry today (Feb. 7) before the national kick-off Give Kids A Smile Day event in Washington, D.C. Photo by Namita Gautam, DC Dental Society

An enthusiastic dental dean, Dr. Leo E. Rouse, opened the GKAS event by thanking “the entire DC Dental Society family. This is about you, the volunteer models, you young people. This is about family, inter-professional engagement. This is your chance students, residents, volunteers, dental hygienists, dentists, staff, the whole family. Make it a great thing. This is our future.”

“Each year our volunteer dentists identify children who need continued care and offer to treat these children in their private offices,” said Dr. Donna Grant-Mills, associate professor and chair of Howard’s Department of Dental Hygiene. “The challenge over the years has been getting that child to the office. This year, thanks to a grant through the American Dental Education Association aimed at enhancing the formation of academic and community partnerships to reduce oral health disparities for vulnerable children, we will be able to link those children and their families to dentists and oral centers in Ward 7 for post-GKAS treatment, so that they may receive continued care.” – Full Feed with Link Strip – ADA Blog

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