A program launched by the Greater St. Louis Dental Society leaves area children with healthier smiles and an awareness of the importance of dental health.
More than 325 children throughout the St. Louis area are smiling a little brighter today thanks to more than $58,000 worth of free dental care provided to them during the first bi-annual Give Kids a Smile program on Feb. 8-9. This two-day dental care clinic was a fun and educational event that succeeded in its mission of treating underserved children's dental needs as part of National Children's Dental Health month.
Over the course of the event, underserved children from several local schools, church groups, and organizations gathered at the Downtown Dental Clinic at 223 North 7th Street, where they were warmly greeted by clowns; Dr. Ted E. Bear, the mascot from the Greater St. Louis Dental Society; and Delta Dental of Missouri's Panda mascot and Tooth Wizard character. Each child received preventative, restorative, or major dental work; watched videos on dental health; received a goodie bag; and left with a whole new reason to show their pearly whites – a healthy smile.
"Everyone has the opportunity to make a difference in today's world," stated Dr. Jeff Dalin, spokesperson for the Greater St. Louis Dental Society. "The dentists, hygienists, dental assistants, dental hygiene students, and ambassadors who took part in the Give Kids a Smile program brought together an awful lot of talent and hard work in order to make a difference in the lives of these St. Louis children. It was a tremendous success."
The care was provided as a result of the efforts of a special committee recently formed by the Greater St. Louis Dental Society's Committee for Community Outreach and Access. The committee enlisted the services of more than 65 dental society members of all specialties, along with 59 hygienists, 70 dental assistants, 24 dental hygiene students, and 127 nondental volunteers to "give back" to those who are less fortunate and cannot afford dental care. This event was the first of many ways the committee plans to demonstrate such commitment.
Area schools, churches, and other nonprofits participated in the event and helped to give their children access to free care.
"I can't say enough good things about the event. It was a great experience; the kids really enjoyed it and were put at ease; and all those involved were very accommodating," stated Debbie Quesenberry, community outreach director of the Salvation Army Carondelet Corps. "I hope it went so well that they decide to do it again."
Dr. Dalin notes that the committee does have plans for a repeat event, and ultimately hopes that Give Kids a Smile will be held twice a year to serve even more children. "As dentists and dental hygienists, we possess unique talents. We are the only people who can do what we do on a day-to-day basis. If we don't reach out to these children to meet their dental needs, no one else will. And we can't do it alone," said Dalin. "On behalf of all of the participating dental professionals, I'd like to thank the many other participants whose contributions helped not only to make this event possible, but ensured its success."
"The need for dental care among the less fortunate in our community has never been greater, and we, along with all of the other volunteers and contributors, appreciated the opportunity to play a role in helping to meet that need during this great event," said Steve Gaal III, president and CEO of Delta Dental of Missouri. "We salute the Dental Society and everyone else involved for making Give Kids a Smile a reality and allowing us to be a part of it."
Give Kids a Smile Organizing Committee Members:
• Ray Storm, Jeff Dalin, Jan Storm, Tom Flavin, Karen Reiner, Mark Dolson, Bob Butler, John Landgraf, Kurt Studt, Norm Frieberger, Don Gutting, Joe Sokolowski, Ollie Fisher, Mark Ortinau, and Roy Bedrock
• Dr. John Mahoney and Downtown Dental Associates, who hosted the event
• Delta Dental of Missouri, whose contributions included providing the volunteers' lunches and T-shirts and donating professional services to create the event logo and promote the event
• Service International, which provided numerous volunteers for on-site coordination and helped with transportation
• Appollo Dental Supply, First Pacific, Dexis Digital Radiology, and a host of other dental companies