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Campus News

Dental heros bring 'super smiles' to hundreds of kids

By SARA R. SALDI

Published February 10, 2014

More than 800 local schoolchildren visited the School of Dental Medicine on Friday during the school’s 14th annual “Give Kids a Smile Day.”

This year’s theme, “Super smiles brought to you courtesy of your dental hero,” reflects the feeling that everyone who volunteers or participates to make the day a success is considered a “dental hero,” organizers said.

For the second year, “tooth fairies” helped guide the children and their parents through tours of the dental clinic, hands-on activities, oral hygiene instruction and the award-winning Teddy Bear Clinic.

In addition to the tooth fairies, volunteers numbering in the hundreds — including private dentists and dental hygienists, and faculty, students and staff from the UB dental, medical, nursing and pharmacy schools — donated their time to provide dental cleanings and treatment to children who may not receive regular dental care and who may be seeing a dentist for the first time.

Serving Western New York since 1917, UB’s dental clinic is also the “dental home” for thousands of patients who make more than 50,000 visits throughout the year.

Dignitaries who were in attendance this year included Provost Charles F. Zukoski, Gale R. Burstein, Erie County health commissioner; and Buffalo Second Deputy Mayor and UB alumna Ellen S. Grant.

Grant, who proclaimed Feb.7 as “Give Kids a Smile Day,” thanked dental clinic representatives for helping the children of Western New York. “We know that the mouth is the gateway to the body so getting oral health care early is very important for general health,” she said.

Burstein, who said her father is a recently retired UB dental faculty member, noted that as a pediatrician, “I know that problems with oral health can affect eating, growth and general health in children. The UB School of Dental Medicine is a great partner for us in Erie County and one of our community’s greatest health assets.”

Zukoski, who was making his first appearance at Give Kids a Smile Day, said the day’s events made UB proud.

“UB Dental and its engagement with the city during events like this are rewarding for the children, the dental students and the dental school. I look forward to the 15th Give Kids a Smile Day,” he said.

Dental school Dean Michael Glick explained that oral health problems are the No. 1 cause of missed school days and that good oral health is a key component of overall health.

Glick added that the annual “Give Kids a Smile Day” is a major event for the UB School of Dental Medicine and represents an extraordinary amount of planning, coordination and outreach.

“This is all possible because of the exceptional efforts of Dr. Wells, the UB Smile Team, our interprofessional colleagues in the health sciences and the many Western New York dentists and community partners who volunteer every year,” he says.

Event organizer M. Dian ChinKit-Wells, clinical assistant professor in the Department of Pediatric and Community Dentistry, and a 1994 alumna of the UB dental school, said children who have more advanced dental problems requiring more treatment than could be offered during the day’s visit will be able to schedule future appointments for care at UB

“As always, every child left the UB clinics with a toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss and instruction on how to keep their teeth healthy,” said Wells.

“Every year we work to find our children a dentist in their local community or they can continue to come to UB and call us their dental home. It is important that our patients continue with dental care more than just once a year.”

The event is held as part of National Children’s Dental Health Month in collaboration with the American Dental Association and the Eighth District Dental Society.