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Team Smile ramps up its game

Pro sports teams, players, volunteers partner to treat and educate thousands of kids


Teamwork: Kids from Hickman Mills, Holiday Montessori and Benjamin Banneker Charter schools in Kansas City, Mo., are thrilled to meet Kansas City Chiefs football players at a TeamSmile event Oct. 22, 2013, at Arrowhead Stadium. Chiefs players include, from left, Sean McGrath, Ryan Succop and Dexter McCluster.Dentists include Dr. Tucker J. VanYperen, a volunteer dentist from Kansas City, Mo., (in red scrubs) and Dr. William Busch, TeamSmile co-founder (in black scrubs).
Kansas City, Mo.—2013 was a championship season for TeamSmile, the Kansas City-based nonprofit dental organization that creates connections between children's service groups, dental professionals and professional sports organizations to provide care and education to underserved children nationwide.

Last year, TeamSmile volunteers nearly doubled their 2012 program results, reaching more than 3,200 children and providing, nearly $1.5 million in care at 14 programs with sports teams including the Minnesota Vikings, Chicago Bears, New Orleans Saints, Kansas City Chiefs, Denver Nuggets, Atlanta Falcons and Cincinnati Bengals.

In December 2013, the Georgia Dental Association joined together with TeamSmile and the ADA's Give Kids A Smile program to conduct a joint GKAS/TeamSmile program in Atlanta, with several Atlanta Falcon players in attendance. The program was made possible by a generous donation from CareCredit to the ADA Foundation Give Kids A Smile Fund. (See related story.)

"The reason I started TeamSmile in 2007 was to give back to my community," said Dr. William Busch. "We continue to grow because the need is there; we continue to grow because the community is willing to help children in need; we continue to grow because a smile is worth saving and everyone—professional sports teams and players, corporate sponsors, community leaders and finally our wonderful dental community back up this belief. I can't wait to see what 2014 has in store for us."

Kids participating in TeamSmile programs at stadiums, schools and community centers receive extensive health education, from oral health care to nutrition and the importance of staying active. Volunteer dental professionals team up with professional sports organizations and supporters in the community to inspire kids to be healthy and enable kids without access to dental care to receive needed dental education and treatment.

"TeamSmile believes that most children are familiar with their hometown sports teams and look up to the players on these teams," Dr. Busch added. "As a dentist, I know that children sometimes shy away from going to the dentist because of the fear of what may happen. TeamSmile takes the spirit behind sport organizations and adds it to a dental outreach event to create an experience that makes children want to visit the dentist. Children are excited about going to a sports stadium to receive dental care and meet players, cheerleaders and mascots from the team. The support of these sports franchises makes TeamSmile programs an extraordinary dental program experience."

Since its founding in 2007, TeamSmile has expanded steadily. In the last two years, it has grown about 500 percent.

A typical TeamSmile program hosts about 300 children for dental screenings, X-rays and dental treatment followed by oral education and a fluoride varnish treatment. Sponsors for the program include Midmark Dental, Colgate, DEXIS and Henry Schein Cares.

Several 2014 programs are already scheduled. For more details, visit teamsmile.org.