Published February 12, 2015
A mini-fire truck, tooth fairies and life-size teddy bears helped bring bright smiles to more than 1,200 children attending the School of Dental Medicine’s 14th annual “Give Kids a Smile Day.”
Troublesome weather could not stop hundreds of volunteers, including faculty, staff and students from the UB dental school, as well as private dentists and their staffs from donating their time to provide free dental care to Buffalo students, of which nearly 800 were Head Start children — double last year’s total.
“It’s worth creating healthy smiles,” says M. Dian ChinKit-Wells, clinical assistant professor in the UB Department of Pediatric and Community Dentistry. “And the dental school understands and appreciates that. Regardless of how hectic the day is, we give back to the community because we know it’s worth the effort.”
The event, held on Feb. 6 in Squire Hall on the South Campus, is held in partnership with the American Dental Association, the New York State Dental Association and the 8th District Dental Society. It is part of a national effort to teach children to build good dental health habits while they’re young to avoid major oral health problems later in life.
Guests included President Satish K. Tripathi, Rep. Brian Higgins, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, Erie County Health Commissioner Gale R. Burstein and Oswaldo Mestre Jr., director of the Buffalo Division of Citizen Services.
“The key to understanding how a kid is feeling is through their smile,” said Mestre, who delivered the annual proclamation endorsing the day as “Give Kids a Smile Day.”
“It’s great that UB has done this outreach to make sure these kids are feeling good about themselves.”
While teddy bears and student volunteers provided kids with dental treatment and cleanings through the award-winning Teddy Bear Clinic, those waiting their turns enjoyed hands-on activities, dental videos, games, oral health instruction and visits by Mr. Tooth and UB Bulls mascot Victor E. Bull.
“We take a great pleasure in being able to provide dental care to patients that, otherwise, wouldn’t be able to get it in a timely fashion,” said Michael Glick, professor and dean of the School of Dental Medicine.
“We show our dental students — the future dentists — that giving back to the community is part of the credo of being a dentist. They have a communal responsibility and the students here are accepting that. They think it’s a great thing to do.”
Christen Carute, who is in the final year of the four-year dental program, has never missed a Give Kids a Smile Day. Although she doesn’t plan to pursue pediatric dentistry, the children are what bring her back each year to volunteer.
“Just to see the kids with big smiles on their faces after being in such a vulnerable position — having someone look in their mouth and they don’t really know what to expect — is one of the most rewarding experiences,” Carute said. “That is, by far, the best feeling to know that these kids value what we’re doing and that they want to spend the time with us.”