Bulletin of Dental Education

University of New England Dental Programs Provide Free Care to Children in Underserved Communities

 Permanent link   All Posts

The University of New England College of Dental Medicine (UNE-CDM) and Department of Dental Hygiene held their third Give Kids A Smile event in early February, providing $14,500 in free dental care to a record 88 patients ages 4 to 18 years old. 

Three schools from Regional School Unit 23 (Old Orchard Beach), the local school district, bussed their students to UNE’s Oral Health Center, located on the Portland Campus for the Health Sciences, for the event. Patient services included free dental screening examinations, oral hygiene education, cleanings, fluoride varnish, and sealants.

The first Gives Kids A Smile was held at UNE in February 2020, and the second was held in 2023.

The now-annual event is part of the national Give Kids A Smile (GKAS) celebrations held across the country, in which thousands of dentists give their time to provide underserved children with needed dental care.

At UNE, the event engages students and faculty from both the dental medicine and dental hygiene programs in upholding the university’s mission to improve the health of people and communities in Maine and beyond.

“By hosting events like GKAS to improve access and education for the children of Maine, we can decrease the number impacted by dental pain that often leads to poor nutrition, difficulty sleeping, trouble concentrating and missed days of school,” said Nicole Kimmes, D.D.S., Dean of the UNE-CDM. “Our goal with this event is to create a fun dental experience for the [Old Orchard Beach] students while connecting families in need of a dental home with our Oral Health Center clinic for future care.”

Regional School Unit 23 District Nurse Sarah Burnham, R.N., who leads the school district’s efforts for the GKAS initiative, said she was inspired by the children’s healthy smiles following the experience.

“It was so great to work with UNE again this year,” reflected Ms. Burnham. “Oral health is so important, so it is great to have this program offered to our district. With this program, our students can have a positive experience going to a dentist, which will make their next visit that much easier for them, as well.”

On the ride back to Old Orchard Beach, each child received a goodie bag containing a toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, oral health education materials, activity sheets, crayons and a sticker. Parents and guardians received follow-up reports outlining any dental findings, as well as vouchers for their children to receive a free comprehensive oral evaluation, radiographs and treatment plan for a future visit at the UNE Oral Health Center.

Owen Williams, a UNE-CDM D.M.D. student, said the day was a win-win for all involved, as students gained experience in pediatric dentistry while the patients benefitted from care they may otherwise have not received.

“Pediatric dentistry is a skill that is most definitely useful when transitioning to community-based externship rotation or private practice,” remarked Mr. Williams. “For the patients, I believe this can relieve dental anxiety or fear and hopefully increase future visits to a dentist to maintain adequate oral health.”

Courtesy of University of New England College of Dental Medicine

Published on May 8, 2024

Duggan ad 2013