Roni Resek, first-year dental student at the SIU School of Dental Medicine, adds facepaint to Tri’ziah Atkins, 6, during Give Kids A Smile Day.
ALTON — The Southern Illinois University School of Dental Medicine provided free comprehensive dental care, valued at $63,514, to more than 125 children during its 11th annual Give Kids A Smile Day on Oct. 10.
Dental students, faculty and other professionals volunteered their time and combined their efforts to offer the care, including X-rays, cleanings, fluoride treatments, fillings and extractions.
“I made sure I marked my calendar and had my girls up early this morning, so that they could come out, get any work that they need and get their teeth cleaned,” said Antonia Webb of Alton, who brought her two daughters to the event. “This was very much a convenience for me, and I am glad that they did this event.”
Making the day extra special were the upbeat activities offered by first-year dental students to engage the children, educate them on the importance of oral health and ease their worries about visiting the dentist.
“Access to care is difficult, particularly for the underserved, and kids are where it starts,” said Dr. Bruce Rotter, dean of the SIU School of Dental Medicine. “We feel if we provide these children with the care they need and educate them on good oral health from an early age, they will carry that through their adult life.”
“It’s incredible how Give Kids A Smile Day involves the entire school,” added SIUE Chancellor Dr. Randy Pembrook, upon attending. “It’s a great day of reaching out to the community to offer services that individuals may not be able to afford or gain access to on their own.”
Among the activities were face-painting and a live band of dental students. Multiple tooth fairies brought cheer to the children and happily led them to receive their dental care.
“It’s definitely a well-rounded opportunity for the kids to have fun, and kind of take that edge off the cleaning and what’s going to happen,” David Lawson of Wood River said.
“The tooth fairy costumes, that’s hilarious,” Lawson’s 11-year-old son Timothy exclaimed.
“This is just the best approach in order to express to kids the importance of oral health,” said Kameris Austin-Biggs, a first-year dental student. “I’m considering specializing in pediatrics. This event is just amazing to me.”
Give Kids A Smile Day is a national event sponsored by the American Dental Association. Services at the School of Dental Medicine’s event were provided by faculty, students and staff, members of the Madison and St. Clair district dental societies, Lewis and Clark Community College dental assisting and dental hygiene faculty and students, and faculty and students from the Missouri College of Assisting. Professionals and volunteers from the community also participated.