The Medical Education Campus (MEC) hosted the 2017 Give Kids A Smile (GKAS) event on Friday, February 10. The event, sponsored by the Northern Virginia Dental Society, provided free dental services to 391 at-risk preschoolers primarily from Arlington County.
A total of $68,874 worth of dentistry was provided to those who received care. The children were seen by dental professionals, students and community members who volunteered their time. Among them were 25 volunteer dentists, seven volunteer hygienists, 46 dental assistants, 16 non-dental volunteers, 29 second-year dental hygiene students and 12 dental assisting students from the MEC. Virginia Governor Terry R. McAuliffe also attended this year’s event and encouraged the children to value good oral hygiene.
“GKAS truly helps to set the foundation for young children to have a healthy lifelong dental experience,” said Dr. Ashkan Ghaffari, GKAS Program chairman. “Each year, we receive positive feedback from so many parents appreciative of this program. One of our main goals is to help instill a positive mindset and motivate each child to learn the proper way to maintain healthy teeth.”
Shaneva Bishop, a parent with Arlington County Head Start, said she was quite surprised to see her 5-year-old eager to see a dentist.
“Normally when my daughter has a doctor’s appointment she is nervous and cries, but I was completely shocked at how happy she was to attend the event today,” Bishop said. “Give Kids A Smile is needed in this community because so many children do not have insurance and are unable to visit the dentist regularly. I am definitely pleased to see my daughter leave with a smile on her face.”
Each February, GKAS takes place to provide free dental services to children in underserved populations that are referred by the Northern Virginia Dental Society. The children receive free evaluations, prophylaxis (teeth polishing) and fluoride treatments. If children need more extensive dental treatment, they are referred to a local dentist for additional care.
In addition to receiving free dental care, beaming 4-year-olds left with goodie bags that contained a toothbrush, toothpaste, stickers and dental floss to help maintain a healthy smile.
The American Dental Association began the nationwide Give Kids A Smile program in 2003 as a way for dentists to join with others in the community to provide dental services to underserved children. Each year, approximately 450,000 children across the country benefit from more than 1,500 events, all because of the efforts of 40,000 or more volunteers.