‘Give Kids a Smile’ Event Helps Make Dental Hygiene Fun, Offers Free Cleanings

Dozens of local children received free dental care from the dental hygiene students at Blinn College as part of the eighth annual student-run “Give Kids a Smile” event.

The 28 college students were assisted by more than 20 volunteer dentists and hygienists from around the community, giving families on a tight budget the opportunity to make sure their children’s teeth were in proper shape.

Ms. Dana Wood, an instructor with Blinn’s dental hygiene department and faculty adviser for the event, said Blinn has provided around $250,000 worth of dental services over eight years, thanks to diligent students and local dental professionals with a heart for community service.

“That’s just how amazing our dental community is here,” she said.

Between 50 and 80 children from Bryan and College Station – both appointment-based and walk-ins – received x-rays, cleanings, dental exams and sealants. Because some children had cavities or more work that was needed, some dentists with the programme will be offering free services during the summer for the children examined. Students with Blinn also educated their patients on proper tooth maintenance and dental hygiene.

“If a family doesn’t have insurance, normally the expenses can vary,” said Ari Bonneau, a second year student working the event. “X-rays alone can cost around $100. Dental care is very expensive without insurance.”

Ms. Wood said many of the families who seek care from “Give Kids a Smile” are compelled to make hard decisions in a tough economy. Sometimes, their only choice is between dental insurance and paying bills, and the dental care of the kids can take a backseat to other necessities. Many of the children treated had never been to a dentist before.

Dr. Dwight Hirsch, a dentist practicing in College Station, volunteered at “Give Kids a Smile”, offering free dental examinations for the children.

“This event has been organised well, and it’s very worthwhile,” he said. “I think we’re doing good for these kids.”

Dr. Hirsch said, of the children he examined, some had taken great care of their teeth, while some were suffering from serious decay.

Ms. Kera Crookston, a dental hygienist out of Austin, is a graduate of Blinn and drove to Bryan to offer her services for the event, despite having to wake up early for a flight to Kenya for a mission trip. She said she enjoyed working the event as a student at the college. Though she typically works with adults these days, she worked diligently with her child patients, telling them to “open up like an alligator” and showing them how tooth polish works by demonstrating the polish brush on the children’s fingers.

Daniel Rios, 7, a first grader from Crockett Elementary, said his teeth cleaning was scary, but he felt brave, just as Dr. Hirsch, who tended to Rios, told him he was.

Bonneau said all students and volunteers try their best to make a positive impression on the children.

“We definitely have to have a more cheerful attitude, to be welcoming and make this exciting and not scary,” she said. “If the kids feel nervous and scared, they won’t come back. We want to make it feel like it’s fun.” – Rebecca Fiedler