It's Time to Give Kids a Smile

Rebecca A. Eckland
Give Kids a Smile Event

The Give Kids a Smile Event enables children in need to access dental care.

For twelve years, the TMCC Dental Hygiene and Dental Assisting programs have participated in the Give Kids a Smile (GKaS) Program, a national initiative organized by the American Dental Association (ADA). Since its inception, more than 5.5 million underserved children nationally have received free oral health services provided by volunteers that include 40,000 dental professionals, of which TMCC Dental Hygiene and Dental Assisting students are a part.

This is the only event that enables students from the Dental Hygiene and Dental Assisting programs to work together. While all students in both programs receive plenty of hands-on experience, GKaS most closely mimics what students will face in a professional Dental Office once they graduate from the program.

“For this event, the students are more autonomous than while in classes. While they are still supervised at the event, the Dental Hygiene and Dental Assisting students mostly work with each other, so they can work at a faster pace,” said Julie Stage-Rosenberg, Professor of Dental Hygiene. “Plus, the kids who receive services are excited to be here.”

Answering a Need in Our Community

GKaS was established as an outreach campaign that would enable underserved youth populations to receive care, while instilling the importance of good dental hygiene to children at a young age to treat and prevent their oral health. The need for these services is great: according to the ADA in 2018, more than 181 million Americans didn’t visit a dentist. Nearly half of people over 30 suffer from some form of gum disease. Nearly one in four children under five already has cavities and 10 million children ages two through 18 had no dental insurance.

The data is particularly acute for children in Nevada. According to Oral Health Nevada, 64% of third graders have experienced tooth decay, while 29% have untreated tooth decay; only 37% of low income children (under the age of 20) have had a dental visit but only 20% received treatment, which is well below the national average. And, according to Northern Nevada Dental Health Programs, 8 out of 10 children in our region of the state suffer with untreated tooth decay.

Megan Ceccarelli, a Dental Assistant at Champagne Pediatric Dentistry has been volunteering at a Give Kids a smile event for three years at this local office. “It's one of my favorite events,” she said. Ceccarelli, who is also a TMCC Dental Assisting Alumna, remarks that this event is much-appreciated in our community. “It is always amazing to see so many people from the dental community come together for a day to help children who may not have the opportunity to have regular dental check ups. Dentists, assistants and hygienists from several different offices and student volunteers from multiple programs all give their time to achieve one goal—to help those who need it."

If You Know a Child Who Needs to be Given a Smile

Any child in between the ages of six and 13 in need of dental hygiene can participate in TMCC’s GKaS Event on Saturday, February 23 from 8:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m. Dental Assisting students will take the children’s check-up x-rays. Dental hygiene students in their fourth, and final semester will provide dental cleanings, fluoride treatments and dental sealants, in addition to giving each kid a goodie bag filled with items like toothbrushes, floss and other reminders of oral health.

David Lund, DDS, and Donna J. Hellwinklel, DDS—who are both part time instructors at TMCC and who have participated in the GKaS event for several years—will conduct dental exams. Referrals for other dental care will also be provided. First year Dental Hygiene students will assist with administrative tasks.

A grant from Lee R. Del Grande Foundation has helped to pay for x-ray film, disposable dental supplies, fluoride varnish and sealant material, supporting the success of this annual event since 2013. Stage-Rosenberg estimates that children participating in the event receive an average ranging from $60–$180 of dental services.

The event not only touches local youth in need of dental services, but the students in the Dental Hygiene and Dental Assisting programs as well. “It’s such a nice way for students to feel they can contribute in a positive way,” said Stage-Rosenberg. “Some of our graduates have implemented a ‘Give Kids a Smile' event in local offices where they now have careers. Others participate in other forms of offering free dental care.”

Melanie Lubbe, who graduated from the Dental Assisting program in 2013, continues to participate in Give Kids a Smile Event hosted at the Champagne Pediatric Dentistry where she is the Sparks Office Practice Manager. "I have volunteered at the Give Kids a Smile event for the past four years. I love this day because it is amazing to see how excited and happy the kids are to be getting their teeth fixed! A lot of the children we see have teeth that have been bothering them and I love letting the children know we are going to make sure they leave the office with no more pain—and their eyes always light up! It is a great feeling providing dental care to children who are not able to see the dentist on a routine basis. Parents are so grateful for the service we are providing and the spirits around the office are always high. It is a wonderful feeling knowing that we didn't just help them today, but we provided them with information on ways to continue routine dental care in the future. It is an event we look forward to every year and I hope it keeps growing!"

To schedule an appointment for your child for the Give Kids a Smile event, contact Julie Stage-Rosenberg at 775-673-8279. For more information about the Dental Assisting program, call 775-673-7115. For more information about the Dental Hygiene program, call 775-673-8247.