On Friday, Feb. 6, A.T. Still University (ATSU) celebrated two Give Kids A Smile (GKAS) events on the Arizona and Missouri campuses.
ATSU’s Missouri School of Dentistry & Oral Health (ATSU-MOSDOH) celebrated their second annual event, providing dental care and oral health education to hundreds of elementary schoolchildren in rural Missouri – an exponential increase from 2014. ATSU’s Arizona School of Dentistry & Oral Health (ATSU-ASDOH) was named the national GKAS kickoff site and was joined by dental executives from across the country.
Festivities kicked off on the Arizona campus Thursday, Feb. 5 with a reception hosted by the American Dental Association, Arizona Dental Foundation, DEXIS Dental Imaging, Colgate and Henry Schein-Dental. Guests from each organization gave a short presentation, and the ADA presented ATSU-ASDOH with a special plaque featuring a letter from President Barack Obama honoring all the work by dental professionals to celebrate February’s National Children’s Dental Health Month.
“We were extremely honored to have nationally-recognized dental leaders on campus to celebrate this year’s national GKAS rollout,” said ATSU-ASDOH Dean Jack Dillenberg, DDS, MPH.
At 8:30 a.m. on Friday, the first of several school buses transporting more than 400 children arrived at ATSU-ASDOH for the 10th annual GKAS. Dental leaders and sponsors, students, faculty, staff, and volunteers reunited on the Arizona campus to greet children as they entered the clinic doors. After ten years, students have mastered the greeting process and for a few hours ‘retire’ their scrubs for popular costumes like Frozen’s Elsa and the entire Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles posse.
“Dressing-up in costume helps reduce anxiety and leave children with a positive memory of the event, so they look forward to attending next year,” said event co-chair and third-year dental student Sara Ceglio.
With record-setting attendance, ATSU-ASDOH students – in partnership with Arizona Dental Foundation – orchestrated a seamless event providing dental care at no charge to hundreds of Arizona children who were scheduled to receive dental procedures ranging from cleanings and sealants to fillings and extractions.
“Providing free dental treatment to these children exemplifies the passion we have as students to serve and love those around us,” said event co-chair and third-year dental student Nicholas Salava. “GKAS is a great way that we as a student body can give back to the communities we live in.”
ATSU-MOSDOH students, faculty, and staff collaborated with Grace Hill Health Centers, Inc. of St. Louis to provide sealants and restorative dentistry to Highland Elementary students.For seven hours, ATSU-MOSDOH students provided dental services to children who may not have otherwise received any dental care at all. Dental students also provided education about brushing and flossing and the importance of oral healthcare.
“Not only did we provide definitive care, but we also provided education to hundreds of children in an area truly in need,” said ATSU-MOSDOH Dean Christopher Halliday, DDS, MPH.
Considering Missouri ranked second to last in the percentage of children ages 1-18 receiving any dental service in the nation, oral health education is a critical supplement while receiving dental care.
“It’s important to let children know early how important oral health is and how it relates to overall health,” said Dr. Halliday.