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TeamSmile heads to Kansas City

Kansas City, Mo.—If Dr. William Busch gets his wish, every city in America will soon have its own TeamSmile program.

Since 2006, TeamSmile has "teamed up" with professional and college sports teams to provide underserved children with free dental care, treating more than 4,000 children at events in seven states.

This past summer, the organization partnered with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Kansas City and the city's Don Bosco Community Center, which runs a summer day camp for area kids, and the Kansas City Youth Advocate Program. The July event featured 15 local dentists and dozens of other dental professionals—including students, hygienists and assistants—who treated 300 area children. TeamSmile also held events in Bourbonnais, Ill., and Milwaukee.

For many of the children, TeamSmile is the first contact they've had with a dentist. Since you never get a second chance to make a first impression, Dr. Busch said he makes sure to impart that wisdom to all of the volunteers.

"One event like this could change a life," he said. "You can either have a good dental story or a bad story—which is it going to be? One of the best things I've ever heard is a child who just got an extraction say, 'This is the best day of my life!' "

"Working with these kids is fun. That's why I'm here," said Dr. Conrad Journee of Liberty, Mo. A general dentist who works in public health, this was his third TeamSmile volunteer experience.

The event was sponsored by Willie Wilson Baseball, the Kansas City Royals, DEXIS, D4D Technologies, Henry Schein Cares, Colgate, Biolase and UPS. Following treatment, the children and their families were given tickets to the Royals home game that night against Tampa Bay as well as entry into the Royals Hall of Fame Classic.

Another thing Dr. Busch likes to tell TeamSmile dentists is not to be shy about passing on their office information. According to him, only about 10 percent of the patients take him up on his offer to provide free follow-up care. Of that 10 percent, few ever come again.

His hope is that by making TeamSmile more mobile—the program recently added a TeamSmile van—they can bridge the barriers facing so many children.

"It's so important," he said. "Not only for their oral health but also that these kids feel good about themselves."

Kids began registering at 8 a.m. sharp—many of whom were brought by their parents, who learned of the event from the Boys and Girls Clubs of Kansas City.

"I think I'm going to have to get a filling," worried 7-year-old Mahquiya, "but Mom's making me come."

Her brother, 10-year-old Mahoik was bummed to miss the major league game.

Mahoik had to miss out on the opportunity to attend the free games because his Little League team was in the playoffs and undefeated.

Their mother, Connie Davis, was just happy that all of her kids—she also brought her 17-year-old daughter Titianna along—were seeing a dentist.

"I think things like this are awesome," she said. "A lot of families can't afford health care and even if you have state assistance, there's not a lot of providers."

Titianna nodded in agreement. "I just want the pain to stop," she said, pointing to the right side of her face. She later underwent an extraction.

One of the nice things about having a tradition—TeamSmile and the Royals hope to do the same event in 2010—is listening to the rave reviews from the volunteers and participants.

"Everyone's already excited about next year," said Dr. Busch, who not only got to work closely with all the athletes, but also had a chance to get in the ballgame.

For this event, the Royals donated more than $10,000 and the team's Kauffman Stadium served as a treatment center. TeamSmile also received a $25,000 donation from the United Parcel Service Foundation.

The Royals got involved with TeamSmile at the behest of former player Willie Wilson, who learned about the organization from Dr. Busch, his personal dentist. Mr. Wilson thought that the opening of the Royals Hall of Fame, along with the team's Hall of Fame Classic (an exhibition) would provide the perfect backdrop for TeamSmile.

Said Mr. Wilson, "I [was] proud to do my part to help deserving kids get the treatment they need."