January 24, 2007

'Give Kids A Smile Day' set for Feb. 2 at SIUC

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Nothing is more special than a child's smile.

Southern Illinois University Carbondale's Dental Hygiene Program and more than a dozen volunteer dentists are participating in "Give Kids A Smile Day," from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Friday, Feb. 2, at the Community Dental Center on campus. Children 18 years old and younger may visit a dentist and receive free dental treatment — including examinations, x-rays, cleanings, fluoride treatments, sealants, fillings and simple extractions.


Media Advisory

Reporters and photographers are welcome to cover "Give Kids A Smile Day" at SIUC's Community Dental Center. For more information, contact assistant instructor Jennifer Meyer at 618/453-2353.


The program is open to children who do not receive regular dental treatment and do not have regular access to dental care, said Dwayne G. Summers, a clinical assistant professor and director of the School of Allied Health's Dental Hygiene Program.

Appointments are preferred, said Jennifer M. Meyer, assistant instructor and Community Dental Center supervisor. To make an appointment call the Community Dental Center at 618/453-2353 and specify the visit is for "Give Kids A Smile Day."

The School of Allied Health is a part of SIUC's College of Applied Sciences and Arts.

Charla J. Lautar, associate professor and director of the School of Allied Health, noted that several government documents in the last decade called for more collaboration to increase access to care.

"This activity is an opportunity for our students to partner with the community and work alongside volunteer dentists and dental hygienists providing oral health services to a population group that otherwise would not receive dental care," she said.

"The mission of SIUC also speaks of service to the Southern Illinois area. This is what we hope to accomplish with 'Give Kids a Smile Day' — to elevate awareness and provide services so that our students (and all those involved) will continue to realize their professional and civic responsibilities," Lautar said.

This is the fifth year SIUC is participating in the American Dental Society's nationwide program, which is part of National Children's Dental Health Month. The Greater St. Louis Dental Society initiated "Give Kids A Smile" during a two-day clinic in February 2002.

Nearly 200 children received treatment during last year's event at the Community Dental Center, Summers said. The ADA estimates nearly 750,000 children nationwide will receive treatment this year.

The assistance of the 14 volunteer dentists, nearly 90 dental hygiene students and a majority of the 18 faculty members is essential to the program's success, Summers said. Dentists who are unable to volunteer their time are donating supplies.

"We wouldn't be able to do it without them," he said of the effort. Dental supply company Sullivan-Schein is also providing support.

"Our students really take a lot of pride from this. They get to see the public health aspect of dentistry and the need that there is for the children," he said. "It's a rewarding experience for everyone."

Summers credits assistant instructor and Community Dental Center supervisor Jennifer M. Meyer with spearheading the effort.

"She has been the driving force for us," he said. "She makes sure we get the volunteers and students in the right places."

Meyer said children and parents will benefit from treatment as well as from the dental education they receive. Many children live daily with dental pain and cannot pay attention in school or even sleep because of toothaches, she said.
It is also important for dental hygiene students, she said. The program offers them an opportunity to work as a team with area dentists and gain experience in working with young children and adults and educating them on the importance of dental health, Meyer said.

SIUC's dental hygiene program gained some prominent national exposure in the November 2006 dental hygiene magazine, "RDH Student Focus." Amanda R. Gresens, a senior, wrote, "The

Sweet Truth About Aspartame: Dispelling fallacies and discovering benefits," and seniors Martha Tobias, Obaid M. Baig, and Brandi S. Woodson are featured on the magazine cover and in a short feature on their decisions to go into the dental hygiene profession.

The national recognition is welcome, said Summers.

"It gets name recognition for the program and shows diversity for the program," he said.