Dental School event gives low-income kids reason to smile

This is the University’s second year in the national Give Kids a Smile event.

by Yelena Kibasova

Jahnese Jones, 2, sat in a dentist chair Saturday at the University School of Dentistry adorned with pink sunglasses and a pink butterfly hairclip as junior dental hygiene student Christine Patrick “painted vitamins” on her teeth.

Jeanae Jones of Minneapolis, Jahnese’s mother, brought her three children to the school’s free dental event.

Give Kids a Smile is a national event in its fourth year. This is the University’s second year hosting the event, which gives low-income children free dental care and increases awareness about the need for adequate treatment.

Last year the University event brought in 138 children. This year the School of Dentistry scheduled more than 300 patients.

Volunteers for the day included first-year dental and dental hygiene students and full-time faculty members. The event was a student-initiated event supported by the staff, said Patrick Lloyd, dean of the dentistry school.

“(Students) gain a lot of satisfaction in managing the operation,” he said.

While more experienced students worked to treat patients, first- and second-year students kept track of charts and escorted children from one room to another.

Coordinators made some changes to this year’s Give Kids a Smile event.

The free program added a larger dental hygiene component.

“We have a much bigger emphasis on the prevention side of dentistry,” said Carly Grothe, fourth-year dental student and student coordinator of the event.

Volunteers made a chart for each patient who attended the event in order to keep them on file at the school.

Lloyd said, “Our big difference this year is we’re getting more information from (patients) so we can follow up.”

The event’s main goal is to connect children with a dental service and to let them know what their (dental) concerns are so they continue to receive treatment, Lloyd said.

“This is a way of getting connected. If all we did is the dentistry today, I don’t know if it would be that big of a long-term value,” Lloyd said. “We need to inform and educate them on what their needs are and what can be done.”

Volunteers recommend that patients come back and utilize the pediatric dental service at the University. The services are provided at a reduced rate.

Grothe said about two dozen children came back after last year’s event.

Pat Bryan, adjunct dental hygiene professor said, “There’s a real issue on access to care in Minnesota… We’re really serving the population well by providing this service.”

Dental resident Adena Borodkin, who worked on Jeanae Jones’ children, said she realizes there are always barricades to getting care.

Jeanae Jones said the Saturday event was convenient for her busy schedule.

“I work so much during the week and just to be able to bring them all out… and get them all done… it makes it worthwhile,” Jones said about seeing people turn out for the event.

Jeanae Jones said she enjoyed having Borodkin treat her children.

“I’m going to try to come back and… see her if I can because she’s been really nice and really helpful,” Jeanae Jones said.

Student-coordinator Lanette Wedell, who is also a senior dental hygiene student said, “It’s part of our requirement of the profession that we work to give back to the community.”

Lloyd said that besides using some of their own disposable equipment for the event, the school also received dental supplies from local companies, including 3M.

Lloyd said the School of Dentistry intends to participate in the event next year.