Volunteers help give Triangle children a healthy smile
Posted February 6, 2015
Chapel Hill, N.C. — Everyone loves to see a child smile, but sometimes a smile can reveal untreated dental problems.
Give a kid a smile day events involve 10,000 dentists and 30,000 dental staff members volunteering their services nationwide.
Durham's Head Start program brought 120 children, ages 3 to 5-years-old to the University of North Carolina School of Dentistry. Many of the children had never seen a dentist before.
About 200 volunteers from the school of dentistry, medicine, nursing, and public health pitched in to make sure the kids had fun.
"February is Dental Health Month, so what better way to celebrate than to improve children's dental health," said Jane Weintraub, a dentist with the UNC School of Dentistry.
Volunteers said the kids learn about the importance of good hand washing, healthy eating and the proper way to brush an elephant's teeth.
"A lot of this is about the education, both for the child and their parents and getting them involved and learning about their oral health," said Ben Anders, a third year dental student.
Volunteer dental staff provided $11,000 of care for the children, many of whom might not have received it otherwise.
"When they don't have insurance coverage or can't afford dental care, often they are seen very late," said Charles Norman, an intermediate past president of the American Dental Association.
Doctors say poor oral health can put children at a disadvantage in school and has the potential to lead to other health problems beyond the mouth.
"When they come they don't see the dental office as a place to fear," Anders said. "They see the dental office as a really healthy place where they can get on a healthy track."