Give Kids A Smile Provides Help for Those Who Need It

Posted by THE NEXTDDS on Sat, Feb 13, 2016 @ 02:00 PM

60006-D72-6395-lg.jpgSince its inception in 2002, the Give Kids A Smile (GKAS) program, launched by the American Dental Association (ADA), has given more than 5 million underserved children free oral health care. Today, Give Kids A Smile (GKAS) is the ADA's premier access-to-care program, with events taking place nationwide in all 50 states the first Friday of every February. What started off as a mere 15 dentist chairs (tailoring 400 children) in a run-down St. Louis clinic, has developed into one of the most consistent grassroots programs to date. Nova Southeastern University’s (NSU) College of Dental Medicine in Fort Lauderdale, FL has hosted the national kickoff, which is expected to include over 1,500 other events across the country. These events range from big schools welcoming in hundreds of children, to individual pro-bono services to a handful of children under the GKAS banner.

Give Kids A Smile's (GKAS) main philosophy is devoting regular treatment for children who do not have the means to dental care, as well as raising awareness on the troubling lack of accessible dental care for the underprivileged. Unfortunately, this problem still persists for many communities. 

According to the CDC, 1 in 4 children under the age of five has tooth decay. The percentages for older children and teenagers are even more staggering, revealing 53% for those ages six to eight and 84% for those 17 and older. Tooth decay is not only a serious health concern for growing adolescents, but effects to self-esteem result in over 52 million lost school hours. Dental health care is a major concern for many, especially those who cannot receive it on a regular basis.

Due in part to nearly half a million volunteers, children from all walks of life are able to receive and learn more about oral health care. While volunteers have been able to serve their community and better educate children, the most important factor is lending a hand in the fight against the suffering that many of these kids face. Schools such as the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Dentistry, Harvard School of Dental Medicine, and the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine have all joined in the fun! 

Sponsors, who have generously provided many resources and donations over the years, are also responsible for much of GKAS's success. Companies such as Henry Schein, Colgate, and DEXIS have led the charge, and continue to do so. Henry Schein, operating as the chief product sponsor for the program, has donated nearly $1.3 million dollars worth of services for over a decade. Since 2008, Colgate has provided over $700,000 worth of aid, including toothpaste and toothbrushes. Finally, DEXIS has contributed x-ray screenings and staff expertise since GKAS first opened its doors.

60006-D72-6403-lg.jpgThe ADA does exceptional work year after year for GKAS, but there's no time to wait in order to join the cause. Now is the time to get involved and give out more smiles! To get started, visit the Program Planning Toolbox and Register for your own event today!

Have you given a child a smile recently? If you were one of the 10,000 dentists or 30,000 dental team members, societies, or volunteers on hand for the annual Give Kids A Smile event, we would love to hear from you! THE NEXTDDS has been covering the cause through our magazine, podcasts, and on social media (Facebook and Twitter) for the past two years. Send us your pictures, stories, and blog posts, and share your experience with THE NEXTDDS!

To learn more, visit the ADA website, or check out the Give Kids A Smile (GKAS) official homepage.

Tags: ada, Henry Schein, GKAS, give kids a smile

Dentists for Della: The ADA's Best New Student Organization

Posted by John Papa on Fri, Aug 23, 2013 @ 04:13 PM

Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking with Mallory Dawson, a D4 student at Georgia Regents University College of Dental Medicine. Mallory and her classmates participate in the Dentists for Della student organization, which recently received the Horizon Award for being named Best New Student Organization by the American Dental Association. The Dentists for Della program is dedicated to providing quality dental care to elderly and geriatric patients living in the local area. Mallory joined us to discuss the specifics of the program, and spread the word about this initiative.

Can you give us some specifics about what the Dentists for Della organization is all about?

Once a month, over 20 students volunteer under faculty supervision to visit the Georgia War Veterans nursing home. Students clean and adjust dentures and brush the teeth of nursing home residents, and provide general oral exams. Over the past year, we expanded the services we offered, and Junior and Senior students now do rotations at the nursing home. During these rotations, students perform denture repairs and more in-depth restorative procedures.

You mentioned that Dentists for Della was a volunteer program, but is participation now mandatory for GRU students?

There are two aspects of the program. The rotations are mandatory for Junior and Senior students, and they’ve been integrated into our curriculum. These are the days that we provide restorative care and full exams for the patients. On the first Wednesday of each month, any student can volunteer at the nursing home, and that is when students brush and clean the patients’ teeth, clean dentures, and provide small assistance to the patients. This is unique because it lets Freshman and Sophomores get involved with patients before they have any clinical experience.

Approximately about how many patients have been seen so far this year?

Since January when we started providing the actual treatment and rotations, we have seen more than 50 different patients and provided more than $7,500 worth of treatment.

What kind of challenges are presented when you’re working with geriatric patients that you might not see when you’re working with other adults or pediatric patients?

One big challenge that sticks out in my mind is trying to treat patients with severely limited mobility. A lot of these patients are in wheelchairs, and even though we have the basic equipment at the nursing home to provide quality care, you have to improvise when your patients have this mobility impairment. At the school, we’re very used to seating our patients in a chair with great lighting and providing care in a state-of-the-art facility with state of the art equipment, but we can’t always have these optimal conditions at the home. On multiple occasions, I have treated patients while they were standing up. Being able to adapt and provide quality care in that environment is probably the biggest challenge.

How are the patient attitudes toward the students?

The patients volunteer for this care, and they are so excited every time we come in. They’ve developed relationships with numerous students and our advisors. They know a lot of us by name, and they just light up when we come. More than just the dental care we provide, it’s just to be able to smile, to talk, to see a new face that they’re not used to seeing every day, it’s a great experience for us and for them.

Have you had a case that really stuck out in your mind that you yourself or one of your classmates encountered during one of these visits?

I remember one patient who had extremely large cavities on his teeth, and he would never smile and was very self-conscious about their appearance. Over the course of several visits, we were able to fully restore his teeth and create a much more aesthetic smile, and now every time we see this patient, he has a huge grin on his face and a big smile. For us, that’s what dentistry is all about; trying to help people and making them feel more comfortable in their own shoes.

That’s a great story. You’re so right, that’s what it’s all about. That’s why people ultimately get into dentistry, to help people and make them feel better about themselves. Thank you so much for joining us today, Mallory!

Absolutely, thank you!

To listen to our full podcast with Mallory Dawson about the Dentists for Della organization, visit

Tags: ada, dentists for della, georgia, organization, della, gru, program

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