In a continuous effort to educate children on proper hygiene techniques, the Northern Virginia Dental Society (NVDS) and NOVA’s Medical Education Campus partnered to host 2018 Give Kids A Smile event (GKAS) on Friday, February 2. The event, sponsored by NVDS, provided free dental services to 490 at-risk preschoolers primarily from Arlington County. A total of $69,000 worth of dentistry was provided to those who received care. The children were seen by local dentists, hygienists and dental assistants who volunteered through the NVDS and dental hygiene students enrolled in the program at the MEC.
“GKAS truly helps to set the foundation for young children to have a healthy life-long dental experience,” said Give Kids A Smile Program Chairman Dr. Ashkan Ghaffari. “Each year, we treat young children who generally do not have dental care available to them. This year, approximately 100 volunteers demonstrated good hygiene practices for each child to learn. When the children walk in, we can always tell they are nervous about what to expect, but after their treated, it’s amazing to see them walk away with such huge smiles, expressing how much fun they had.”
Ashley Euceda, a parent with Arlington County Head Start, said her four-year-old son is typically apprehensive about doctor’s visits, however, she was quite surprised to notice his calm demeanor at the GKAS event.
“My son doesn’t like going to the dentist, sitting in the examination chair really makes him nervous,” Euceda said. “This was his first time attending GKAS, and I noticed he was very comfortable with receiving care. Oral health is very important for any patient, and I’m grateful for this opportunity.”
GKAS takes place every February to provide free dental services to children in underserved populations that are referred by the Northern Virginia Dental Society. The children received free evaluations, prophylaxis (teeth polishing) and fluoride treatments. If children need more extensive dental treatment, they are referred to a local dentist for care. In addition to receiving free dental care, beaming preschoolers left with goodie bags that contained a toothbrush, toothpaste, stickers and dental floss to help maintain a healthy smile.
The Give Kids A Smile program launched nationally in 2003 through the American Dental Association (ADA) Foundation. In 2017, free dental services were provided by more than 30,000 dental team members, 8,000 of whom were dentists. To date, more than 5.5 million underserved children have received free oral health services through the annual program. Each year, Give Kids A Smile is celebrated nationwide and at NOVA’s Medical Education Campus on the first Friday in February. Virginia Governor Ralph S. Northam also attended this year’s event and encouraged the children to value good oral hygiene.
“It’s always an amazing and fortunate opportunity for NOVA to host this annual event,” said MEC Acting Provost Dr. Marsha Atkins. “It’s a great way to open the Medical Education Campus to the community, provide a needed service, and give our dental hygiene students a hands-on opportunity to put their newly acquired skills into practice.