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Kids receive oral health care, flu shots, nutrition advice at University at Buffalo GKAS event

February 19, 2018

By Kelly Ganski

Photo of volunteers handing out healthy snacks at GKAS event
Healthy smiles: Dietetic interns Natalie Rusu and Brooke Bubolz at the University at Buffalo School of Public Health and Health Professions man the healthy snack table at the dental school's Give Kids A Smile event Feb. 3. Photo by Meredith Forrest Kulwicki
Buffalo, N.Y. — Flu shots, nutrition and more were integrated Feb. 3 into the University at Buffalo's Give Kids A Smile event.

The spirit of the ADA Foundation's Give Kids A Smile program is to encourage dentists to work together with their communities to provide free dental care to children in need.

The University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine took it one step further. Volunteer dentists, faculty members and dental students not only provided free dental care to about 200 children on Feb. 3, they partnered with students in the nursing, social worker, audiology and nutrition programs at the university to deliver an overall health assessment.

The nurse practitioner students recorded the height and weight of each child; tested their blood pressure; and gave several dozen flu shots. Children, accompanied by their parents or caregivers, also received hearing screenings, a lunchbox with healthy snacks and were assessed whether they would qualify for Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program, said Dr. Stephen Abel, associate dean for students, community and professional initiatives at the dental school.  

"Our students observed dietitians speak to parents about reducing sugar consumption; nurses address the importance of child immunizations; and audiologists discuss hearing and its importance on childhood learning," Dr. Abel said. "I honestly believe that all those interprofessional interactions make our dental students better primary care providers. And it did not go unnoticed just how much these nondental providers learned about oral health."

More than 200 dental students, 60 volunteer faculty and community dentists and a dozen hygienists spent the day assessing and treating children ages 2-18. Ten to 15 percent of the children made follow-up appointments with another clinic, Dr. Abel said.

"The interprofessionalism leads to a better understanding of the full scope of their colleagues' professional roles and responsibilities," Dr. Abel said. "In the end, we hope that activities such as these will lend themselves towards the building of healthcare networks and referral networks in our communities."