Dental school students, faculty and staff know importance of free screening day for kids

53 appointments filled on Give Kids a Smile Day

When the WVU Dental and West Virginia University School of Dentistry pediatric department hosts an annual day for free screenings, things move quickly.

“It was wonderful to see all of the smiling faces on both the patients and their parents. Today was very busy, but successful due to our pediatric department and student volunteers working together. I am already looking forward to next year,” Makenzy Fox, pediatric dental hygienist, said.

The February 3 Give Kids a Smile Day was Fox’s first experience with the American Dental Association Foundation’s idea to provide underserved children with a free oral health care visit.

The outreach event aims to address three of the main reasons patients avoid the dentists. They include cost, lack of awareness and fear.

A DDS student works with a child during Give Kids A Smile Day.

“Give Kids a Smile is all about an opportunity to reach out to the community to say we’re here, we want you to come and see us. And, while you’re here, we are going to take a look at your teeth and make sure everything is going OK,” Dr. Gina Graziani, pediatric dentist and department chair, said.

Dr. Graziani works with a father and daughter on Give Kids a Smile Day.

Students who provide care on GKAS day volunteer for that day in the clinic.

“It’s very exciting because we get to bring in children who may not have access to dental care. So, we are able to provide that for them and provide oral health education, diagnose caries and provide cleanings,” Rachael Johnson, a senior dental hygiene student, said.

It makes a difference.

“We just helped a little girl with an extraction. Mom and dad were so happy with how it went. It’s good that we got her here today. We got what she needed done and everyone left happy,” Olivia Goff, dental assistant, said.

Dental and dental hygiene students, faculty dentists, hygienists and dental assistants managed 53 appointments for children ranging in age from 1 to 16 years old.

A dental hygiene student gives a patient a high five.

Of the 58 appointments made, 91% of the patients came for screenings.

“It was so exciting that the majority of our scheduled patients were present for Give Kids a Smile day. Now the children we saw on Give Kids a Smile Day will have a positive dental experience and will be looking forward to their next dental visit,” Fox said.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and the American Dental Association recommend children have their first dental visit by their first birthday or within six months of the first incoming tooth. They also suggest children visit their dentist twice a year.

So, it was no surprise at WVU Dental when nearly all of the Give Kids a Smile patients were recommended for follow-up consultation or a six-month evaluation.

“We love people coming in here and taking advantage of it. It’s also helping us build skills and build community connections through WVU dentistry,” Johnson said.

A patient receives care at the pediatric dental clinic.

Dental caries is a disease that impacts more children than other common diseases like asthma, childhood diabetes and obesity. Proper oral hygiene early helps avoid complex treatments later.

Sixteen follow-up appointments were scheduled on Give Kids a Smile Day.

View a gallery of photos from the day.