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WesternU gives kids a smile

by Rodney Tanaka

February 17, 2012

Read 3 mins

More than 230 children received free dental exams and preventative care at Western University of Health Sciences’ Dental Center as part of Give Kids A Smile on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2012.

The College of Dental Medicine started seeing patients a half hour earlier than scheduled because of the volume of people waiting.

“This is very beneficial for the community,” said Pomona resident James Thomas, who brought his two children to get examined. “All the students I met were very professional. They told the children exactly what they needed for their teeth.”

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month. Each year, 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 American Dental Association (ADA).

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

The College of Dental Medicine partners with the Tri-County Dental Society for Give Kids A Smile activities. The GKAS program meshes well with WesternU’s emphasis on providing health care to the less fortunate and to those with access to care issues, said College of Dental Medicine Assistant Dean for Patient Care and Clinical Education David Lazarchik, DMD.

“Students learn the value of helping these patients who probably don’t have access to regular dental care,” he said. “It’s part of the solution to a national problem dealing with access to care. It’s training them as students and hopefully they carry these habits when they become practitioners.”

GKAS also aims to educate families about good dental hygiene. One major reason for children missing school is dental problems such as tooth abscesses and toothaches, Lazarchik said.

“If we can get the kids early before they develop a lot of problems we can do preventive measures like dental sealants and fluoride varnish on their teeth,” he said. “We can treat minor problems before they become major problems. If we educate kids and the parents about how regular dental visits can prevent these problems, hopefully we can convert them to becoming regular visitors.”

The Dental Center offers affordable dental care and has fees structured for those who do not have dental insurance.

About 100 College of Dental Medicine students volunteered for the GKAS event. In addition to the dental exams, the students talked to the children and their parents about proper dental care.

“We educate them about brushing and flossing,” said third-year College of Dental Medicine student Farnaz Amini. “Patient education is key.”

The students’ efforts were appreciated by those who utilized their services. Pomona resident Alejandra Fuerte brought her three children to WesternU’s Give Kids A Smile for the second consecutive year.

“A lot of parents cannot afford dental insurance,” she said. “It’s a struggle to have kids go through pain. I think this is really wonderful. I think you made a difference in these kids’ world.”

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