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Sidelined by the pandemic, Give Kids A Smile Day is back

After a year interrupted by COVID, the University of Tennessee Health Science Center’s College of Dentistry will be filling cavities and offering other free dental care to middle-school students from Freedom Preparatory Academy, as part of the American Dental Association’s Give Kids A Smile Day (GKAS), on February 24. 

Approximately 90 children are scheduled to receive care provided by College of Dentistry students and faculty. The clinic will run from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. on the fourth floor of the College of Dentistry, 875 Union Ave.  

UTHSC’s College of Dentistry has hosted the event for eight years, including five years with Freedom Preparatory. In 2020, the dental students saw 121 children and performed 1,462 procedures valued at $35,585. 

Dr. Cassandra Christiansen (Photo by Allen Gillespie/UTHSC)

“We will definitely see kids who are in pain due to dental problems or who have been in pain. If a child knows it’s hard for Mom or Dad to take off work to go to the dentist, they don’t want to complain,” said Dr. Cassandra Christiansen, associate professor and director of School-based Programs and Community Outreach for the College of Dentistry.

“They may chew on the other side of the mouth. They’ll do things to get around it. But the condition gets worse.” 

After their appointments, the students will have time to take selfies with the Tooth Fairy and learn about hidden sugars in their everyday diets. 

Orpheus Triplett, DDS (Photo: UTHSC)

“Programs such as Give Kids A Smile are simply one layer of the foundation on which to build the promise of and potential for good oral health,” said Orpheus Triplett, DDS, assistant dean of Community Oral Health and Outreach for the college.

“Our outreach programs at the College of Dentistry are meant to have a presence in as many layers of that foundation as possible as we strive to provide greater access to care, better awareness of the importance of good oral health and clinical excellence in our provision of care. What better way to start than with our efforts with Give Kids A Smile?” 

This is the 20th anniversary of ADA’s Give Kids A Smile program, which was founded by a St. Louis dentist in 2003. Since then, more than 7 million children have received the free care. According to the ADA, nearly 1,000 Give Kids A Smile events have been scheduled for 2022. They will serve 260,000 children nationwide. 

Dr. James C. Ragain Jr. (Photo: UTHSC)

“We were extremely disappointed last year when we were not able to participate in Give Kids A Smile due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We are very excited that we will be able to participate this year,” said James C. Ragain Jr., DDS, professor and dean of the College of Dentistry. 

“I extend a special thank you to Dr. Triplett for the remarkable job he has done putting this program together. Through his meticulous planning and coordination, I believe the program will be a huge success this year. Give Kids a Smile is a win-win for our dental school. Our students enjoy working with the children, and the children benefit from the free dental treatments.” 

(The College of Dentistry also offers low-cost dental care to the public at its clinics in the Medical District. Call 901-448-6468 to make an appointment.)

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