The SCTCC dental students are all about good habits. The number one thing they talked with their patients about on Feb. 1? Getting a toothbrush in their mouth.
It was Give Kids a Smile day, a program held statewide that provides free dental care to local children who wouldn’t otherwise have access. The program has been active in Minnesota since 2003, and 2019 marks the ninth year that SCTCC has participated.
“We’re doing Give Kids a Smile Day,” said student Abby Pekarna. “The dental community tries to give back to help kids and make sure they’re getting the quality care they need to maintain their teeth. If there’s any work they need done [fillings or sealants] we do it for free.”
Second-year dental assistant and dental hygiene students, along with four local dentists, were able to see 45 kids on Friday. This year they ended up having to turn away 10 people.
“There is a definite need in the community to be able to service children who don’t have dental care,” said instructor Char Randall. Randall said this is also great experience for the students to get a taste of what the setting will be like in the dentist’s office.
“They get to work on the patients, but we aren’t assessing or testing them,” she said. “Next week the dental assisting students start internships, and this is a perfect way to start.”
Pekarna said one of the best parts of the day is the camaraderie between the two dental programs. “To come together and see what we can do for the community is really amazing.”
Dr. Andy Wilcox was one of the four dentists who volunteered his time during the event. It was his first year at Give Kids a Smile; he gets many SCTCC interns and hires graduates, so he knew the SCTCC location would be a good fit.
“Dentistry is a hard thing to access for some people, and if we can offer an event like this, it’s nice to help out kids and parents who wouldn’t otherwise be able to,” said Wilcox.
The Give Kids a Smile event was made possible by the Minnesota Dental Association, volunteer dentists, sponsors, faculty, staff, and students in the SCTCC dental hygiene and assistant programs.