Published May 31, 2019
Hundreds of Western New York schoolchildren received free dental screenings and education earlier this month through the Colgate Bright Smiles, Bright Futures program, which strives to bring dental care to underserved rural and urban communities.
With the support of nine students and staff members from the UB School of Dental Medicine, the program screened more than 800 elementary students from six schools in Niagara County.
“UB Dental chose to participate in this event not only to assist families with dental awareness, education and access to care, but also because it is a priority of the school to help and be active in the community, making a difference one smile at a time,” said Misty Garrett, a dental hygienist and clinical instructor in the Department of Periodontics and Endodontics in the dental school.
Added Stephen Abel, associate dean for student, community and professional initiatives: “We value our relationship with Colgate-Palmolive.
“Over the past few years, we have partnered with Colgate-Palmolive in research and educational activities. Here, we are partnering with them once again to bring necessary services to the communities we serve.”
The screenings, held May 15-17, were performed in Colgate’s mobile dental van, a 32-foot-long clinic on wheels that features two dental chairs and friendly visuals to help create a fun and less intimidating dental experience.
The program was organized through a collaboration between Colgate-Palmolive, the UB School of Dental Medicine and the Niagara Falls chapter of The Links, Incorporated, an international volunteer service organization for professional women of color that is committed to enriching the culture and economic survival of African Americans and people of African ancestry.
UB dental students — members of Buffalo Outreach and Community Assistance (BOCA), a student-led organization dedicated to promoting dental education and providing free dental care for people around the world — also assisted with patient charting and education.
“This was actually one of the most fun outreaches I have done for the school, said Victoria Maglaras, a second-year dental student.
“I know some kids were having their first dental appointment. It was nice to be part of the education process for kids so young and to reach so many kids. To make them aware of good habits, break things down into simple information they can understand and see the light bulb switch in their minds is special.”
After the screenings, parents received a “report card” for their child that graded their oral health and recommended follow-up care, if needed. Families who do not have a regular dentist are provided with referrals to a dentist in their area.
“So many children miss days of school because of toothaches, pain and being ill,” said Carla Johnson, New York program coordinator for Colgate Bright Smiles, Bright Futures. “It’s important to capture these issues and to educate them early. These can become serious issues if left untreated.”
Colgate Bright Smiles, Bright Futures operates nine state-of-the-art, mobile dental vans that are equipped to screen more than 10 million children each year for common oral health conditions. In addition to providing care to underserved youth in rural and urban communities, the program also works to raise awareness about the importance of children’s dental health.