19th annual Give Kids a Smile provides free care to 80 children

Student and faculty volunteers pose in their Give Kids a Smile t shirts

Most kids don’t look forward to going to the dentist. School of Dentistry students, faculty and staff once again joined dental institutions across the country this weekend to change that.

On Saturday, February 11, the School of Dentistry hosted its nineteenth annual Give Kids a Smile event. More than 200 volunteers, including DDS, dental hygiene and dental therapy students and faculty, provided care for 80 children.

A child receives dental care

As part of the American Dental Association’s national Give Kids a Smile program, the School of Dentistry’s event provides children with comprehensive examinations, cleanings, sealants and fillings. Children receive free care and a scholarship for continued preventative care, with the goal of establishing the School of Dentistry as their dental home.

Three learners from each DDS class form a committee charged with leading the event, with three members of the Class of 2024—Sara Henry, Benjamin Moore and Andrew Nguyen—taking on the organization as co-chairs. Henry, Moore and Nguyen are happy to be part of a program that has a real and lasting impact on kids. Their top priority is to give their young patients a positive memory while also caring for their mouths.

A child hugs Goldy in the hallway

“The dental office can be a scary place for kids, and making it a fun experience sets them up for the rest of their life,” Nguyen explained.

Henry agreed. “For some of these kids, it’s their first time going to the dentist,” she explained. “We want to make it easier for them to keep coming back, stopping the cycle of poor oral hygiene.”

In addition to the patients, Moore appreciates the impact Give Kids a Smile has on the volunteers who join on the day of the event. “This is a really great opportunity for our volunteers to see that there is a way to give back to the community,” he explained. “It’s especially valuable for our students, who can take this experience with them as they begin their careers.”

Putting the event together, and coordinating hundreds of people and moving parts, has been hard work—but it’s worth it to see the smiles on kids’ faces as they depart from a successful and not-so-scary trip to the dentist. “I’m excited to send the kids home with oral care packages, including an electric toothbrush, that they’ll hopefully be excited to use,” said Henry.

Goldy pretends to provide dental care to a child

Most of all, the co-chairs are grateful to be part of something bigger than themselves and their studies.

“We’re doing the work to coordinate this event, but that really means we’re bringing together everyone that makes it happen,” said Moore. “We couldn’t do it without the volunteers, the faculty and the administration. Just being able to see everything come together has been exciting.”

That excitement turned into a day they’ll never forget.

“It’s really cool that the dental school does this,” said Henry. “It has a real impact on the community, and it’s something everyone in the school knows about and is excited to be part of. It’s a really great day.”

Click on the photo below to see additional pictures from the day.