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Giving back Feb. 15 via Give Kids A Smile

February 26, 2019

By Jennifer Garvin

Education: Howard second-year dental student Quodarrius Toney, top, and first-year Amir Deiab demonstrate the best way to brush.
Washington — Serving others is a big part of dentistry — one that pediatric dentist and educator LaToya Barham wants to impart on her students before they graduate.

Service was the driving force of the Howard University College of Dentistry's Feb. 15 Give Kids A Smile event. Participants included university faculty, dental students and dental hygiene students. Services provided included oral exams, prophys, fluoride varnish treatments and sealants. The event served 30 children but any children who couldn't attend were welcome to visit any time during the month of February for free dental treatments. The school also scheduled follow-up appointments for treatments that needed additional time. All the children received dental goody bags, lunch and free movie tickets.

Photo of a child receiving treatment
Open wide: Third-year dental students Matthew McLeod and Olu Ogundipe scale 11-year-old Trey'zuan's teeth.
"I am so grateful and blessed to have opportunities for my students to learn how to serve. And what makes it extra special is for this to be National Children's Dental Health Month. "To be able to give back in this capacity means the most to me," said Dr. Barham, assistant professor and clinical coordinator for the predoctoral program. Dr. Barham, along with pediatric residents Drs. Ashlee Thomas, Cynthia Arocha and Stephanie Oboite, were the primary organizers of the event. Dr. Iris Morton, a member of Howard's dental faculty, sponsored the kids' transportation through the Washington (DC) Chapter of The Links, Incorporated.

Students from the District's Cleveland Elementary and Howard University Middle School filled the waiting room of Howard's pediatric dental clinic as they waited their turns to be examined. While they waited, first- and second-year dental students provided dental education via posters and hands on activities. Third- and fourth-years cleaned the children's teeth. Throughout the room, Howard's pediatric dental residents and faculty supervised.

Eighth-grader Cheyenne Jackson, 14, was excited for the field trip. It wasn't the first time her school had visited Howard for GKAS.

Photo of Ms. Pinkerton and a patient
Great job: Cheyenne and third-year dental student Chantol Pinkerton are all smiles.
"I've been brushing my teeth and flossing, but flossing is hard," she said. "I try though."

Inside the clinic, the sounds of Bruno Mars blasted from a portable speaker as Cheyenne picked out a chair and third-year dental student Chantol Pinkerton prepped her for her cleaning. In another chair, third-years Matthew McLeod and Olu Ogundipe talked music to set 11-year-old patient Trey'zuan at ease.

Photo of Dr. Arocha leading children to the clinic
Here we go: Dr. Cynthia Arocha, a pediatric resident, leads children to the clinic.
"I've got a really good patient here," said Mr. McLeod as he scaled Trey'zuan's teeth.

Cheyenne was dismayed to learn she had a cavity. "I need to do a better job brushing up here," she said, pointing to her left upper molars.

Back in the waiting room, Dr. Barham was pumping up the crowd.

"We're giving kids smiles today. Are we ready?" she asked.

"Yes!" the room shouted.

"How many teeth do you have? How many do you want?"

For a moment, the room was silent as the children pondered the question. Then everyone spoke at once.

"25?" asked one. (Close.)

"100?" wondered another. (A shark, maybe?)

But the crowd soon settled on 30. (Eventually.)

"Let's go find out," Dr. Barham said.
Group photo of Howard faculty members
Teaching moment: Howard faculty pose during the school's Give Kids A Smile day. From left are Drs. Melanie Thwaites, Donna Grant Mills, Dean Andrea Jackson, LaToya Barham and George Thomas.