10:46 AM

​College of Dentistry makes children smile with outreach effort

Nearly 200 central Ohio children benefited from free dental cleanings, exams and services at The Ohio State University College of Dentistry on Friday.

Ohio State helped kick off the national 2018 Give Kids A Smile program. The student-led initiative is part of the national Give Kids A Smile program sponsored by the American Dental Association Foundation.

“We really try to increase the access to care in the underserved communities of Central Ohio. We try to provide a dental home for those kids and then we also try to increase the awareness of the underserved communities,” said Haella Holmes, a third-year dental student and current president of the College of Dentistry student organization for Give Kids A Smile. 

Holmes said the program is an emotional experience.

“Learning about it in classes is one thing but really seeing it happen is incredible,” she said.

Nina Lane, a Columbus mother, brought her 3-year-old son Kevin for treatment. She found the experience comfortable and efficient.

“I thought it was great. I wasn’t sure how long it was going to take given that it’s such a popular event but we got in and out pretty quickly. Everyone was very friendly. It was a good day,” Lane said.

The Give Kids A Smile program also offers a teaching opportunity throughout the College of Dentistry.

“This day in particular gives all of our students … a really deep exposure to the needs of children,” said Patrick Lloyd, dean of the College of Dentistry. “So it’s a great opportunity for us to not only provide care but to create an educational moment where our faculty can work more closely with large numbers of students dedicated to a day exclusively for kids.”

Although the program has been around only since 2003, the impact has been remarkable. More than 5.5 million children around the country have received free oral health services since the program’s inception. In Ohio, dental volunteers have provided more than $13.5 million in dental care to more than 250,000 underserved children.

Supporters of Give Kids A Smile hope it removes any fear over dental care and helps start a lifetime of good habits.

“Dental disease is a preventable disease but you have to be able to take care of yourself to do that,” Joseph Crowley, president of the American Dental Association and an alum of Ohio State, said. “So programs like this that are reaching children and educating them … is just amazing.”

Lloyd said providing care to people in need is one of the core missions of Ohio State.

“This is a place they can call their dental home. This is the place where we can take care of the most incidental and minor dental concerns to the most complicated ones you can imagine. We like to think of ourselves as a true resource,” he said. “I always say when it comes to dentistry, what is good for Ohio State is good for the state of Ohio.”

The next generation of dentists or hygienists may have been served this day.

“Our hope is that some of these small children might consider a dentistry career years from now after they’ve had this wonderful first experience.”