UK dental students, 4 Paws service dogs give free dental clinic


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Haley Blackburn

UK Dental School’s Student Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (SCAAPD) hosted their annual Give Kids a Smile clinic last Saturday.

Give Kids a Smile is a free dental clinic for children between the ages of 1 and 18. The clinic focused on teaching preventative measures to children such as good oral hygiene practices. However, the clinic also provided teeth cleanings, exams, x-rays, sealants, fillings, fluoride and other important dental services.

It is a nationwide initiative sponsored by the American Dental Association with thousands of clinics hosted across the country throughout the month of February, which is National Children’s Dental Health Month.

Fifty-five student dental volunteers, 14 pre-dental students, nine support staff workers, four faculty dentists and six resident students banded together to make the event happen. After the four-hour clinic was over, the group had treated 39 patients and provided a total of $5,667 worth of free dental care, Allison Stump, SCAAPD vice president, said.

Kassidy Wolfe, a fourth-year dental student and SCAAPD member, said the impact of this event goes beyond the numbers.

“I’m passionate about this event because to many of the children we are the first ‘dentists’ they ever see,” Wolfe said. “If we can have a great appointment with them, briefly educate them on how to correctly take care of their teeth and healthy foods to eat then dismiss them on a positive note, then we have hopefully set the tone for the rest of their lives for their opinions of going to the dentist and how important it is that they regularly seek care.”

Other students also see this kind of work as having a positive impact beyond that of a single patient.

“We are passionate about it because of the impact it has on the community and public health as a whole,” Ivan Huynh, a fourth-year dental student and SCAAPD member, said. “If we can work towards instilling good oral health practices and values in children, it will lead to a healthier adult population and have a lasting impact on future generations.”

4 Paws for Ability also partnered with SCAAPD to be a part of the event by bringing their dogs to calm the kids as they received care.

“Give Kids a Smile is a wonderful and unique opportunity to socialize the dogs in a healthcare setting while providing a stress-free and anxious-free environment for our patients,” Spencer Laufer, third-year dental student and SCAAPD president said.

While the dentist’s office doesn’t always sound like a fun place to be, the service dogs in training along with some other fun elements helped to make the event a success among both kids and dental students.

“Service dogs are on hand to comfort anxious kids. ‘Tooth fairies’ are floating around the clinic with sparkly wings, and children are receiving dental care at absolutely no cost. It is just as fun for the dental students as the patients,” Shelby Miller-Oberst, third-year dental student, said.

Though it takes a lot of preparation and volunteers, Miller-Oberst said the goal of the event makes it worthwhile.

“Our goal is to keep Lexington’s kids smiling,” Miller-Oberst said.