On Friday, Oct. 27, students and faculty from A.T. Still University’s Arizona School of Dentistry & Oral Health (ATSU-ASDOH) provided free dental care to 73 adults with special needs at Day for Special Smiles, an annual event hosted in partnership with Special Olympics Arizona, the Arizona Dental Foundation, and the Special Care Dental Association ASDOH Student Chapter. Many patients who received care at Day for Special Smiles would not otherwise have access to dental services.
Nearly 200 dentists and dental students volunteered at the event to provide exams, X-rays, cleanings, fluoride varnish, sealants, fillings, extractions, and root canals. In total, the volunteers provided treatment valued at $22,730.
In addition to providing dental services, ATSU-ASDOH volunteers created a fun atmosphere to ease patients’ concerns about receiving treatment. Students wore Hawaiian shirts and leis. There were stations for coloring and painting, and even a Zumba class. Movies played in the background. ATSU’s mascot, Bucky the Ram of Reason, stopped by to pose for photos and learn some new Zumba moves. Patients were delighted to see him.
While the event is wonderful for patients, it is also an important learning experience for dental students. The prospective dentists of ATSU-ASDOH gain valuable experience working with this patient population, preparing them for a career of service.
Mai-Ly Duong, DMD, MPH, ’12, assistant professor at ATSU-ASDOH, organizes the event each year. “Adults with special needs are often forgotten,” she says. “ATSU students already have the heart and compassion to serve the underserved. The University has a unique opportunity to provide this experience for students to gain confidence and competence in treating patients with special needs. Giving back to the community is one of the cornerstones of our school and the profession.”