Free smiles

UB Dental School provides free appointments for kids of all ages

On February 5, 2013

  • The 12th-annual Give Kids a Smile Day granted local school children free dental care and cleanings. Yan Gong /// The Spectrum

It's not often the UB Dental School is filled with kids of all ages with smiles across their faces, showing off their healthy, white teeth.

On Sunday, 250 volunteers came together from UB's School of Dental Medicine, UB Pre-Dental Association and from the Buffalo community for "Give Kids a Smile Day."

The event, hosted by UB's School of Dental Medicine, provided free dentistry and dental health information to approximately 800 children from the Western New York area, ranging from toddlers to 18-year-olds who do not have access to dental care. This is part of the community outreach initiative in the UB Dental School. 

Dr. Meelin Chinkit-Wells, a clinical assistant professor, director of outreach programs and UB pediatric dentist, spearheaded the event 12 years ago and was on hand once again. The event has grown over the past 12 years and this year, Congressman Brian Higgins and Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown were in attendance.

Give Kids a Smile Day is a national event that provides dentistry to children who don't have the benefits of dental coverage. Chinkit-Wells credits her director, Dr. Paul Creighton, for providing the concept of Give Kids a Smile Day. She said each year, the event gets bigger and better.

"[Creighton is] the drive behind it," Chinkit-Wells said. "He's the one who gave me the permission to [participate] instead of sitting in clinic. [Now] I can go out into the community and put together things like this."

  Kaitlin Clark Gullick, 16, and Kaitlyn DeJesus, 16, are students at South Park High School in the City of Buffalo. They attended the event as patients. Gullick, who had a tooth pulled, was grateful for the work.

To DeJesus, the event was "just like going to the normal dentist."

Dentists provided an array of services, such as cleaning, cavity filling, tooth pulling, X-rays, extractions and orthodontics.

Along with the free services, multiple stands were set up, providing activities and general information about dental health for the attendees. The stands enforced the importance of teeth brushing and limiting sugary and unhealthy foods. While walking around the event, children cracked a smile when they ran into Sabretooth, the Sabres' mascot, or the tooth fairy.

The largest group of children came from local head start programs. Children aged 3 to 5 were able to participate in the award-winning UB Teddy Bear Clinic. This group of medical students volunteered to help educate the children on topics like hygiene, overall health and safety.

Every child was given a parting gift after treatment. These goody bags included toothpaste, a toothbrush, dental floss, dental health information and a gift such as a small teddy bear.

The UB School of Dental Medicine will continue to provide free service for children every Wednesday in February because one day is not enough to reach all possible patients, according to Chinkit-Wells.

"We hope to achieve healthy smiles for those most in need and awareness that the dental school is here for its community," Chinkit-Wells said.

Chinkit-Wells and the UB School of Dental Medicine hope they provided children with plenty to smile about.



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