On Friday, Oct. 26, students and faculty from A.T. Still University’s Arizona School of Dentistry & Oral Health (ATSU-ASDOH) provided free dental care to 61 adults with special needs at Day for Special Smiles, an annual event hosted in partnership with Special Olympics Arizona, the Arizona Dental Foundation, and Special Care Dental Association. Many of the 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. ATSU medical and physician assistant studies students also volunteered to provide medical exams, while students from athletic training and physical therapy programs offered muscular screenings. The total value of treatment provided is estimated to be $22,104.
In addition to providing dental services, ATSU-ASDOH volunteers created a fun atmosphere to ease patients’ concerns about receiving treatment. Many students wore costumes. There were stations for coloring and painting, and even a Zumba class. Patients had the opportunity to watch movies and meet ATSU’s mascot, Bucky the Ram of Reason.
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.”