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Community and Collaboration to Give Kids a Smile

TMCC Dental Hygiene and Dental Assisting students observe a dentist working with a patient.
Rebecca A. Eckland

For sixteen years, TMCC’s Dental Hygiene and Dental Assisting Programs have taken part in a national initiative by the American Dental Association called “Give Kids a Smile” (GKAS). This year, TMCC students and faculty along with dentists from the community volunteered to take part in this event that happened on Saturday, Feb. 5 at the Dental Clinic on the TMCC Dandini Campus.

This year, the event was made possible thanks to a collaboration between TMCC with the Northern Nevada Dental Health Programs (NNDHP), which is a partner of the Northern Nevada Dental Society (NNDS).

“The participating dentists all said it was a great environment and they enjoyed seeing the positive impact of their donations to the TMCC Foundation for the dental renovation project,” said TMCC Dental Assisting Program Director Julie Muhle. “Kudos to the TMCC Facilities team, the doors were open at 6:30 a.m., and signs were made and displayed to help parents navigate their way to the clinic.”

Giving Back to the Community

The event, which serves as a way to give back to the community, is also an opportunity for students in the TMCC Dental Hygiene and Dental Assisting Programs to apply their skills and knowledge. This year, they were joined by UNR pre-dental students to assist the dentists, provide fluoride and educate the participants on prevention and ongoing oral care.

“It’s a great collaboration and benefits these patients and students, while providing a forum for dentists in our community to give back to an underserved population of children,” Muhle said.

NNDHP coordinated with community dentists to provide care beyond the one-day event for qualifying participants. The hope is that participants will find their "dental home" through the links fostered by the GKAS event a local practice where further treatment, including fillings, root canals or extractions, can occur.  As in line with the spirit of the event, these services are offered free of charge as a part of the Healthy Smile Healthy Child (HSHC Program). 
Children ages 0-8 participated in GKAS, receiving free dental care, and referrals to dental providers in the community for more specialized care, as needed. A total of fifty-seven children received comprehensive dental exams, fluoride, and oral hygiene instruction.

Additionally, the GKAS event reported that:

  • 28 children received x-rays
  • 3 children had extractions
  • 1 child had multiple infections which required antibiotics, which were prescribed by a dentist who volunteered at the event. The child will receive follow-up treatment free-of-charge this week to prevent health complications from the infections.

“The goal was to screen the children, provide oral care instructions and fluoride, determine their dental needs, find out if they qualify for the Healthy Smile Healthy Child program, and schedule them with a dental provider who will complete their dental restorative treatment free of charge,” said Muhle, who explained that GKAS patients who did not have decay or dental needs will be referred back to the TMCC Dental Hygiene program where students provide them with preventative care and education on oral health.

Opportunities for TMCC Students

On Saturday’s event, eight TMCC dental hygiene students, one dental hygiene instructor, 24 dental assisting students, four pre-dental students from UNR, the NNDHP Coordinator and volunteers from the Community Health Alliance worked together to provide the free dental services. Additionally, visits from Snow White, Mario and other kid-friendly characters helped the young patients to feel at ease.

“The kids had a great experience, which paves the way for them to have a healthy relationship with a dentist and to not fear dental care,” said Muhle. “Our students are sometimes challenged to find pediatric patients that meet the program requirements… This event provides a win-win situation for the children as well as our students.”

For more information about the Dental Hygiene Program, contact them at 775-673-8247. For more information on the Dental Assisting Program, contact them at 775-673-7125.