Heather Blair, a certified dental assistant, left, and certified hygienist Kelly Bardwell, right, clean the teeth of Lindsay Roof, 13, during the Give Kids a Smile program at Owens Community College’s dental hygiene clinic. Two other sites offered the free services on Friday to about 450 children.
Breast cancer survivor Teresa Allgier had so many tough years with medical expenses she no longer could afford health insurance, so Friday it was vital that she get her three children to Owens Community College for free dental care.
“[I’m grateful] to be able to take three kids to the dentist at the same time,” Ms. Allgier said. “It can cost $900 walking through the door.”
The dental care was free for about 100 other children who went to Owens on Friday. The national program Give Kids a Smile was held at three sites: the University of Toledo, Owens, and at the Dental Center of Northwest Ohio. In 2003, the American Dental Association launched the program that relies on sponsors and volunteers.
The program was handled locally by the Toledo Dental Society. Volunteers helped give about 450 children teeth cleaning, fillings, and even tooth extractions.
At Owens, some faculty dentists helped, but it was mostly dental students who volunteered to help children ages 1 to 18.
There were 38 students in scrubs along with Owens graduates who already were out in the field.
“We’ve been looking forward to this for months,” second-year dental student Allison Shrewsbery said. “I love kids. Usually we have Friday off, but we’ve been looking forward to this — it is not even work to us.”
Isaac Truman, 9, waits for dental hygiene student Jen Donaldson to resume cleaning his teeth at Owens’ clinic. Student volunteers outnumbered those already in practice.
Ms. Shrewsbery said the plan is to catch children at a young age and teach them the importance of brushing and flossing their teeth — and what can happen if they don’t.
Beth Tronolone, the chair for the dental department at Owens, said it is great to see the same children come back for the service every year.
“Kids have come back and had no decay for two years. ...,” she said proudly.
Owens faculty member Ted Beitelschees, a dentist in private practice, said that during the 11 years they have been providing the service, they usually see about 120 children throughout the day.
He said the Owens students get the chance to see that they are really helping people. Owens also has a clinic open most weekdays for appointments, but usually it costs $30 for a patient.
First-year student Olivia Slates said it is nice to have the real-life experience and the rush of patients. Ms. Slates said they clean about seven patients’ teeth all semester, but realizes that is only one day in the real world.
“It is beyond great to see a parent teary eyed, thanking us for the work done on their children,” Ms. Tronolone said.