Western University of Health Sciences dental medicine students eliminated lots of sugar buggies as part of Give Kids A Smile on Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014.

WesternU’s College of Dental Medicine took part in Give Kids A Smile, an annual one-day volunteer initiative to provide free educational and preventative oral health services to children.

WesternU students and faculty provided free dental exams, cleanings, fluoride treatments and sealants at two Pomona School Based Oral Health Centers – The Village@Indian Hill and Mendoza Center – in partnership with the Center for Oral Health, the Tri-County Dental Society, and the American Dental Association.

Pomona resident Yesenia Lopez brought her 12-year-old son to Give Kids A Smile for a regular checkup.

“He hasn’t been to a dentist for awhile,” she said. “I appreciate it. Not only are they hands on, they’re also helping the community for people who don’t have insurance or access.”

Third-year College of Dental Medicine student Karen Lee gave 4-year old Jason Roblero a comprehensive exam, cleaning and fluoride treatment. She told him she was looking for “sugar buggies” during the exam.

“Kids don’t understand caries or bacteria, but they understand buggies, and they know they don’t want them in their mouth,” Lee said. “We are taught to make everything less scary. We call them sugar buggies, and they make the connection with what they’re eating. If they eat candy, the buggies will make holes in their teeth and they’ll have to go to the dentist. We encourage better eating habits.”

She gives young patients lots of positive feedback, and keeps talking to them throughout the exam. “If there’s too much silence, they get antsy and scared,” she said.

Give Kids A Smile is a great way for WesternU to give back to the community, Lee said.

“Our school is very much about giving back to the community,” she said. “We help them, and they in turn help us. As a dental school and as dental students, we need people in the community to come to the clinic. We get more exposure to treating children, which is not true for many dental schools. It makes us much more comfortable.”

WesternU expected to examine about 50 children at the two sites for Give Kids A Smile (GKAS). The University had previously participated in the event by inviting children to the WesternU Dental Center. But GKAS provided an opportunity to bring greater awareness of the School-Based Oral Health Centers while streamlining the exam process.

“These sites are a direct extension of our university,” said Timothy Martinez, DMD, College of Dental Medicine Associate Dean for Community Partnerships and Access to Care. “Everything is linked to our school, which allows for university providers to follow through with comprehensive care, if needed.”

They are able to get patients in and out in a reasonable time period, he said. GKAS also provides valuable lessons to CDM students.

“We want dental students to understand the value of giving back, and treating the underserved is clearly in our mission statement,” Martinez said.

Representatives from the offices of state Sen. Norma Torres and Assemblyman Freddie Rodriguez presented proclamations to Dr. Martinez and WesternU, the Center for Oral Health, the Tri-County Dental Society and the Pomona Unified School District in honor of Give Kids A Smile.