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Bright Smiles and Happy Kids: Give Kids A Smile Day at the State College of Florida Manatee-Sarasota

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Through a passion for giving back to the community and concerns for access to care, Shankisha Sizemore, M.S.D.H., CRDH, Clinical Education Coordinator at the State College of Florida (SCF) Manatee-Sarasota, presented an idea for outreach to implement a program offering free dental hygiene services for area children to host a Give Kids A Smile Day event. This initiative, born out of genuine concern and a desire to give back, received enthusiastic support from program faculty and the State College of Florida Foundation. 

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Securing grant funding from the American Dental Hygienists’ Association Mars Wrigley Foundation’s Healthier Smiles Grant Program was a pivotal achievement, exceeding the initial request of $5,000 with a generous award of $10,000. This funding enabled the Give Kids a Smile Day program to launch a two-day event, which laid the groundwork for future expansion to four or more day events to establish sustained impact and outreach.

The Give Kids A Smile Day program’s objectives were clear: to provide comprehensive dental hygiene services to underserved children, including dental radiographs, fluoride treatments and, where necessary, interventions like silver diamine fluoride. Moreover, it aimed to go beyond mere treatment by incorporating sensory evaluations, nutritional counseling and personalized home care instructions into its holistic approach. Children presenting with greater need than the program’s services were referred to local dentists who agreed to provide necessary restorative care. 

The program leveraged social media platforms and community networks to reach its target audience, mainly focusing on engaging elementary and middle school students. This grassroots approach solidified participation and accessibility for those in need.

A noteworthy aspect of the initiative was its interprofessional collaboration with SCF occupational therapy assisting (OTA) students. By conducting sensory evaluations and implementing tailored exercises, the OTA students played a crucial role in easing anxiety and enhancing the overall experience for young patients. Furthermore, their collaboration with SCF dental hygiene students extended to evaluating manual dexterity, ensuring optimal home care routines.

More than just a day of dental services, Give Kids A Smile Day was about nurturing a positive relationship between children and oral health care. The event aimed to instill lifelong good oral hygiene habits and promote overall well-being through interactive activities, educational sessions and compassionate care. The impact of this initiative goes beyond the confines of SCF, contributing to the broader goal of community health improvement.

Courtesy of Kimberly Bastin, M.S., CDA, EFDA, CRDH, Dental Hygiene Program Director, State College of Florida Manatee-Sarasota

Published on May 8, 2024

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