Giving Kids Smiles, One Tooth at a Time
DCTC provides free dental services during annual Give Kids A Smile
Thirty-six kids, ages three to 18, in the Dakota County area went home with happier, cleaner smiles on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013. Dental Assistant faculty and students at Dakota County Technical College participated in Give Kids A Smile, an annual program sponsored by the American Dental Association to provide dental care to underserved children.
According to the ADA, 40,000 volunteers provide dental services every year to approximately 450,000 children nationwide. This marks the fifth year DCTC has been involved in GKAS. Appointment slots were filled within three days.
Diana Sullivan, a dental assistant instructor, has plenty of volunteers, but out of 41 students in her current class, only 12 could participate during the actual event.
“We had to draw straws, so to speak,” explained Sullivan. “It’s a labor intensive day, but our volunteers are excited and when they get done, they say it’s really cool.”
Jamie Hafoka, a student in the Dental Assistant program, explains that the real-life experience they gain from GKAS is invaluable. “There’s only so much we can do on a manikin or only so much we can read,” she said. “Give Kids a Smile is not only about helping others who need it, it’s also helping us get ready to go out into the workforce.”
The students provide a variety of services to the patients, including cavity detection X-rays, teeth polishing and fluoride treatments. The team rotates throughout the day to get as much exposure as possible on each task. “When you’re comfortable with polishing, you’ll move onto sterilizing or X-rays,” said Hafoka.
This year Marcia Kangus, D.D.S., from Burnsville, Minn., volunteered her Saturday to perform fillings and simple extractions. Sullivan explained that patients who need additional care besides services provided during GKAS have the option to see other volunteer dentists in the area, including an endodontist to perform root canals, an oral surgeon for extractions, and an orthodontist who will initiate the first steps of braces.
“So many dentists in the area have volunteered, all to help these kids,” said Sullivan.
Jackie Olesen of Lakeville, Minn., has had her boys participate in GKAS at DCTC for the past three years. Tears of joy filled her eyes when asked what this meant to her. “This means so much to me. Without this program and the volunteers at DCTC, my boys wouldn’t get the dental care that they need,” she said. “I sincerely appreciate this.”
Daniel, 13, and Andrew, 10, both got their teeth cleaned, while Derek, 11, had a couple minor cavities filled. Daniel explained that the students performed the work and the instructors checked everything.
“They’re pretty nice. I feel like they know what they’re doing,” said Daniel.
Andrew was pleased with his teeth cleaning. “It was good,” he said. “I feel good about my teeth now.”
Patients aren’t the only ones who return every year; volunteers do as well. Amelia Pho, a second-year student in the Dental Assistant program, has volunteered in the past and plans to participate again next year. “It gives us a good feeling that we are able to help families in the community, do good and we have fun while we’re doing it.”
Diana Sullivan extended a warm thank you to DCTC President Ron Thomas and Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs Kelly Murtaugh. “We are very thankful that they opened the building on a Saturday when it normally would be closed,” Sullivan said. “It really means a lot us and to the families of Dakota County.”
The American Dental Association launched Give Kids A Smile nationally in 2003 as a way for dentists across the country to join with others in their community to provide dental services to underserved children. The program initially began as a one-day event in February, but has since grown to local and national events year-round. Dentists and other team members volunteer their time, and services, to provide screenings, treatments and education to children throughout the United States.
For more information about the Dental Assistant program at DCTC, please contact:
- Diana Sullivan
Dental Assistant Instructor
- Jamie Pieper
Dental Assistant Instructor