WesternU joined thousands of dentists nationwide in providing free dental care to low-income children as part of the American Dental Association’s Give Kids A Smile program on Friday, Feb. 4, 2011.

The College of Dental Medicine Class of 2013 joined faculty and staff at the Dental Center in WesternU’s Patient Care Center to provide check-ups and oral health tips to about 30 Pomona-area children.

Second-year College of Dental Medicine student Paul Nguyen, gave a checkup to a 2-year-old who sat in his mother’s lap.

“I’m very happy his mom was there. It made it a lot easier,” Nguyen said.

By bringing children to the dentist at a young age, they learn about oral health early.

“It gets kids used to the dental environment,” he said. “Being a medical professional, it’s important to provide help whenever we can.”

Each year on the first Friday in February, thousands of the nation’s dentists and their dental team members provide free oral health care services to children from low-income families across the country, according to the ADA.

The ADA’s Give Kids A Smile® program enhances the oral health of large numbers of needy children. Give Kids A Smile (GKAS) activities also highlight for policy makers the ongoing challenges that disadvantaged families face in finding dental care.

The College of Dental Medicine has a busy slate of community outreach programs scheduled throughout Southern California. The Tri-County Dental Society, which serves Riverside and San Bernardino Counties and the eastern portion of Los Angeles County, is partnering with WesternU for Give Kids A Smile activities.

The Tri-County Dental Society is sponsoring 26 clinics this year. Since the inception of Give Kids A Smile, the organization has provided nearly $1 million in free dental care to uninsured children ages 6-12 in the Inland Empire, said Stacey Drake, the Give Kids A Smile coordinator for the Tri-County Dental Society.

“A lot of kids aren’t getting treatments,” she said. “I get a lot of calls from RNs for the school district who find kids with severe tooth decay who have never seen a dentist, and they don’t have anywhere to send them. It does fill a big need.”

WesternU students are serving the community and also gaining valuable experience working with children. Second-year student Josh Carpenter showed a young patient proper brushing technique with an oversized model of a mouth.

“At first she was pretty scared of the dentist,” Carpenter said. “But after awhile, she got used to us and did well.”

He let her hold the mirrors before using them to look inside her mouth.

“Before I used the electric toothbrush, I put it on her finger,” Carpenter said. “She could feel it go so she knows it’s not going to hurt her. I made sure to show her everything first.”