Paying it forward with Give Kids A Smile

Dr. Bart Paxton treats Porter Crossette, 8, at a Give Kids A Smile event March 1 at the Utah College of Dental Hygiene in Orem, Utah. Porter had his teeth cleaned, had X-rays taken and received a filling and a crown.

Orem, Utah—”Just about there, bud. Holy cow, you’re doing so good.”

Dr. Bart Paxton encouraged 8-year-old Porter Crossette as he patiently lay in a dental chair wearing sunglasses. Porter had already received X-rays, a filling and a crown.

“Now we just need to polish him up, making him look really nice,” Dr. Paxton said.

Porter was one of nearly 150 children who visited the Give Kids A Smile event March 1 at the Utah College of Dental Hygiene.

Many of the children share a similar story to Porter: their parents are either underinsured or don’t have any dental insurance, and they can’t afford to pay for their children’s dental care out of pocket.

“It’s one of my favorite days of the year because I get to help the kids,” said Dr. Adam Shepherd, the coordinating dentist for the event, who practices in Orem. “I don’t have to worry about the business side of being a dentist. It’s just me helping children.”

Stateside dental visit: Dr. Adam Shepherd poses with Albina Truax, 17, after her treatment. Albina came to the United States last year after being adopted from the Ukraine.

It’s the sixth year the college has played host to the event, where 170 dentists, dental assistants, dental hygiene students and members of the public volunteered. The children received sealants, radiographs, fillings, extractions, prophys and stainless steel crowns as part of their treatment.

Children who needed additional dental treatment were given a voucher to have it done at a dental office in the area free of charge. After the clinic, event coordinators planned to email each of the patients to refer them to dental community resources that they can access throughout the year.

The event coordinators talked to a number of community agencies that help underserved children to find kids who would qualify for the event, said Rachel Lovejoy, executive director of the GKAS program.

Volunteer leader: Dr. Gary Wiest, president of the Utah Dental Association, smiles with Elijah Wright, 11.

Salutations: Kevin Torres, 11, makes a card to send to the dentist who treated him at the Give Kids A Smile event.

Ms. Lovejoy was one of 10 program coordinators across the country who received grants to attend the 2013 GKAS Community Leadership Development Institute Oct. 23-26, 2013, in St. Louis. The institute, sponsored by Hu-Friedy, Henry Schein and the ADA Foundation, gives participants the opportunity to learn in person how to initiate, expand and enhance a GKAS program.

“The biggest thing I learned from the institute that I was able to apply toward this year’s event was getting the community more involved,” Ms. Lovejoy said.

She was able to recruit PCcareSupport, an information technology company in Provo, Utah, to take pictures of each child with his or her dentist. The children then pasted the photos on construction paper to make cards to send to the dentists who treated them. Ms. Lovejoy also convinced Waffle Love to donate breakfast and Chick-fil-A to donate lunch.

Henry Schein donated all of the dental supplies, and many local businesses provided monetary donations to help support the event. Ms. Lovejoy also gave this year’s clinic a March Madness basketball theme to make it more entertaining for the children.

Dr. Darren Chamberlain, president of the Provo District Dental Society, has been involved with the event since its inception and was one of about 25 dentists who volunteered this year.

“It’s been really amazing to see a bunch of dentists get together, rub shoulders with one another and do something good for the community,” Dr. Chamberlain said. “It’s nice to know we can give back to children who truly have a need in our area.”

Utah smiles: Dr. Darren Chamberlain, president of the Provo District Dental Society in Provo, Utah, takes a minute to smile before treating Zoram Olaya, 9.

In addition to a March Madness theme, the dentists and volunteers also tried to project a theme of paying it forward.

“We’ve been talking to the children about serving in their own communities and giving back,” said Dr. Gary Wiest, president of the Utah Dental Association, who volunteered at the event. “A lot of dentists travel overseas to help children in other countries receive necessary oral health care. This is a great event because we’re helping children in our own backyard. There’s a lot of them who just can’t afford dental care.”

Dr. Shepherd was able to help some children who came to the United States from overseas. Shelly Truax adopted three children from Ukraine last year and brought them to the clinic to have their teeth checked. Ms. Truax said she was pleased with the results, and her daughter, Albina, 17, wore a big smile after leaving Dr. Shepherd’s chair.

“I’ve been blessed in my life,” Dr. Shepherd said. “The least I can do is to spend six hours once a year to help some children.”

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