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Maryland pediatric practice opens its doors for GKAS

February 09, 2016

By Jennifer Garvin

Field trip: Volunteers at Mt. Airy Children’s Dental Associates pose with patients. This is the 14th consecutive year that the Maryland practice has participated in GKAS. More than 50 children received free dental cleanings, fluoride, X-rays and hygiene lessons as part of the event. Practice owner Dr. David Hasson is back row, third from right. Photo courtesy of Dr. David Hasson.
Mt. Airy, Md. — The day was Give Kids A Smile but the goal was to create an experience to last a lifetime.

And that's just what Mt. Airy Children's Dental Associates did.

The pediatrics practice shut down Feb. 5, as it does for every GKAS—held annually on the first Friday in February. Some years, weather has forced the event to March or September, but the office always opens its doors to kids in need. This was the 14th consecutive year the Maryland practice has participated in GKAS. More than 50 children received dental cleanings, fluoride, X-rays, hygiene lessons and goody bags. By providing free follow-up care, the office offers the children an opportunity to build a dental home. For those cases that require specialists, they coordinate with local doctors on treatment plans.

"When you're a kids' dentist, there are always situations where you ask, 'What can we do? What can we do to help?' " said Dr. David Hasson, who founded the Mt. Airy practice in 1987. "This is the right thing to do."

For the majority of the children, this event marks their first time ever seeing a dentist. That's not by accident. The office prides itself on working in tandem with school nurses and community liaisons to select children they know are in pain or who may be in transition and not yet have dental homes. The liaisons also coordinate transportation for the event, said longtime GKAS volunteer Dede Pew, a local legend who on one memorable GKAS when schools were closed, ferried kids back and forth in her own minivan to ensure they received care.

All smiles: Dr. Allison Green, left, and hygienist Holly Stull give the thumbs up following 11-year-old McKenzie’s visit to Mt. Airy Children’s Dental Associates as part of the ADA Foundation’s Give Kids A Smile program.
"People are very thankful for this," said Donna Pope, a member of the front office staff who helps coordinates event logistics. "Dr. Hasson and Dede are the backbone of the whole thing. They care so much."

Just stepping through the doors of Mt. Airy Children's Dental Associates is an experience. The office is decorated to resemble a rain forest and every corner announces a new theme such as the "Hygiene Hut" and "Fluoride Falls." Operatories become "Dr. Allison's Waterslide Rides" and "Dr. Nate's Safari Outpost."

For his first visit, 9-year-old William eases back into the chair and listens as hygienist Heather Rock demonstrates the various tools she'll be using, including the spinning toothbrush and bubblegum-flavored toothpaste.

"You're the best listener ever," she tells William.

Good news arrived after the exam, when Dr. Nate Shapiro declared William cavity free.

"You've got 22 teeth and they are all looking good," he said.

Two doors down, another first visit was unfolding, with this customer requiring a bit more reassurance.

Building confidence: Hygienist Tanushka Zariwalla explains what a scaler is to 6-year-old Savana. It was Savana’s first dental visit.
"What's that?" demanded Savana, 6, pointing to the silver toothbrush in front of her.
"That's just our tickly toothbrush," explained hygienist Tanushka Zariwalla.

"Do you have a squeaky patient?" asked Dr. Hasson, a toy hidden in his palm. "You're squeaky clean."

Savana wasn't having any of it, eyeing the scaler.  "Do you have to do the inside of my tooth?"

"Just let me try this one back tooth," urged Ms. Zariwalla. "It won't hurt for a second, I promise."

Ms. Zariwalla kept her promise but Savana was done with the scaler. As Dr. Michael Virts approached, she hopped out of the chair and grabbed the mirror.

"Just use this," she said.

Dr. Virts complied, gently opening her mouth and counting her teeth. Follow-up treatment would be needed but for now, just getting Savana comfortable was all that mattered.

"It's all about building her confidence, that's what we do," he said.

Added Ms. Zariwalla, "We start with the mirror and build from that."