It looked like a party was taking place. In fact, it was the ninth year that MCHD Dentistry has participated in the American Dental Association’s Give Kids a Smile (GKAS), which offers a visit to the dentist to children without insurance. In spite of cold and snowy weather that canceled school for the day, 64 children—seven more than last year—received cleanings and fluoride treatments from MCHD Dentistry’s three dental hygienists, Roger Reed, Tiffany Summerlin and Whitney Holmes, as well as two volunteer hygienists, Courtney Ricks and Diann Murray.
Dr. Daniel Carrier, with dental assistant Velvet Urgo, provided checkups while office manager Jenna Coombs supervised the three-ring circus of parents and their offspring as they arrived and then left with their pearly whites a little bit whiter.
As Dr. Carrier told media outlets who stopped by during the day, “We’ve got balloons, we’ve got stuffed animals. We give out a lot of free stuff. We just want to make it enjoyable and hopefully encourage the parents that this is a relationship—whether it is here at our office or with another dentist—that we want to maintain for the child.”
After all, if you make dental visits fun early on, children will be more inclined to be enthusiastic about returning… ideally, every six months. That early dental care is going to set them up for a lifetime of healthy teeth.
The ADA launched GKAS in 2003 and since then, 5.5 million children have received care from about 10,000 dentists across the country. Dr. Carrier’s goal is for the number of kids seen at MCHD Dentistry’s GKAS event to increase every year. Last year, 57 children participated at MCHD Dentistry, the only full-service dental office in West Virginia that is located inside a county health department, in this instance, the Monongalia County Health Department.
M.J. Zink’s young son was happy to find an orange balloon with an orange toothbrush attached to take home with his as his prize for a good visit. “I think you need to teach them early, because you get one set of teeth and it is very important. He loves doing it and it’s something that we can do together.”
In addition to the opportunity to make a dentist appointment as fun as possible, there is another, more serious goal for GKAS. “I don’t have insurance right now so I took advantage of the day,” said Brandi, whose two boys also participated in GKAS. Noted Karla, a mother who brought her daughter in, “It does help out for families who don’t have dental insurance.”
And in another year, the staff at MCHD Dentistry will be trying beat this year’s record of 64 kids seen. “We do it because we feel that it’s a good thing for our community,” Dr. Carrier said. “We feel like we have an obligation to do that. For some people that we are seeing, this will be the only chance they will have to take their kid to the dentist. So we definitely want to make sure that we are there for those members of our community.”