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Give Kids A Smile kicks off in North Carolina

February 01, 2019
Group photo of GKAS volunteers with princess
Royal volunteers: Volunteers, from left, Nancy St. Onge, Dr. Kate Ciarrocca, Jennie Brame, Kayla Cunningham, Beth Kornegay, and Laura Sundmark, who played the Tooth Fairy, smile at the ADA Foundation’s 2019 Give Kids A Smile national kickoff event Feb. 1 at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Dentistry. Photos courtesy of the UNC School of Dentistry.
Chapel Hill, N.C. — Give Kids A Smile on steroids.

That's how Dr. Scott De Rossi described the difference in this year's GKAS program vs. previous years at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Dentistry.

"Historically, our programs have been good, modest events where we were seeing around 100 children and providing $8,000-$10,000 in pro bono care," said Dr. De Rossi, who is the dean of the dental school. "This year, it was unbelievable."

Group photo of dental students
Help from some furry friends: A group of dental students smile at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill School of Dentistry Feb. 1 during the Give Kids A Smile kickoff event. Photos courtesy of UNC-Chapel Hill School of Dentistry.
On Feb. 1, the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Dentistry hosted the ADA Foundation's 2019 Give Kids A Smile national kickoff event. About 150 local children received free dental exams, cleanings, fillings, crowns, extractions, fluoride, sealants, X-rays and oral health education. This year, 175 volunteers provided more than $20,000 in free care, according to Dr. De Rossi.

"It was really great to see a vision come to life in terms of expanded care," said Michael Davis, third-year dental student who helped coordinate the event. "It was a very transformative day and unlike something we've ever done before."

More than 5.5 million children have received free oral health services through Give Kids A Smile since the program's national launch in 2003. In 2019 alone, nearly 350,000 children in need across the U.S. will receive free oral health services from 6,500 volunteer dentists and 58,000 other dental team and community volunteers at more than 1,500 GKAS events.

Photo of child learning about dental care
Education: A child learns about dental care at the health fair.
"Multiple schools within the university framework reached out and collaborated with the school of dentistry to make this the best event it could be," said Dr. William R. Calnon, president of the ADA Foundation. "This led to an unbelievably successful program. It's a shining example of how oral health impacts general health, and how a truly interdisciplinary program supports the best outcomes for the kids."

"For some of these children, attending a Give Kids A Smile program is their only trip to the dentist," said ADA President Jeffrey M. Cole, who attended the kickoff event. "Seeing the smiles at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill that day reiterated how important the Give Kids A Smile program is to both those children who received care and the volunteers who devoted their time to making a difference in those children's health."

The goal for many GKAS events is to find a dental home for the children in need. Because the UNC dental school has a daily, working clinic, volunteers were able to make it the dental home for many of the children who attended the Feb. 1 event.

Group photo of dental leaders
Smile providers: Leaders from the ADA Foundation, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill School of Dentistry and other sponsors smile at a reception Jan. 31 at the university. From left is Dr. Scott Cashion, pediatric dentist; Dr. Alec Parker, executive director of the North Carolina Dental Society; Nehemiah Lawson, student; Dr. Beau Meyer, assistant professor in pediatric dentistry; Dr. William Calnon, ADA Foundation president; Michael Davis, student; Michele Penrose, director of professional relations for Henry Schein Dental; Dr. Scott S. De Rossi, dean of the dental school; Phil McAdams, member of the Board of Advisors; Dr. Megha Sata, member of the ADA Foundation Give Kids A Smile National Committee; and David Krol, M.D., member of the ADA Foundation Give Kids A Smile National Committee.
Hosting a GKAS event is also an opportunity for dental students to see the level of need that's in the backyard of their school.

"I think it provides an awareness of the level of dental disease that's out there," said Dr. Jessica Lee, chair of the department of pediatric dentistry. "But it's also the willingness to serve this population. I hope as dentists in the community that they will do this throughout their life."

The day certainly impacted the students' mindsets of what it means to serve and how they can fill in the gap in access to care, Dr. Lee said.

"I had so many students that day tell me that it was the best day," Dr. Lee said. "When you walked through the clinic, it was palpable how people felt about giving back to these children in a meaningful way."

The ADA launched the national Give Kids A Smile program in 2003 as a way for dentists to join with others in the community to provide dental services to underserved children. The program, now administered by the ADA Foundation, initially began as a one-day event in February, but has since grown to include local and national events year-round. Give Kids A Smile began in 2002 as a single volunteer event that provided oral health services to about 400 kids in St. Louis.

Photo of Mr. Ifedi examining a patient
Treatment: Jamine Ifedi, dental student, examines a child at the Give Kids A Smile kickoff event at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Dentistry.
The national kickoff would not be possible without the support of its sponsors, including Henry Schein, Inc., Colgate and KaVo Kerr. A complete list of Give Kids A Smile corporate supporters is available on the ADA Foundation's website.

For more information about how Give Kids A Smile programs are organized across the country, visit ADAFoundation.org/gkas. For more information about Give Kids A Smile programs taking place in your area, call Give Kids A Smile at 1-844-490-GKAS (4527) or contact your state or local dental association. The ADA Foundation's website, ADAFoundation.org, offers additional resources to help find free or reduced-cost dental care for children.

Give Kids A Smile is also the anchor event of the ADA's National Children's Dental Health Month.