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OSU dentistry students, faculty brighten elementary school students’ smiles

Ohio State students and faculty took their talents on the road to help children smile.

The students and faculty from the OSU College of Dentistry provided free dental services Friday at James A. Harmon Elementary School in Columbus. The services are part of the Ohio Dental Association’s ninth annual Give Kids A Smile program in which dentists and other volunteers educate, examine and treat children that do not have access to dental care. In the first eight years of GKAS, Ohio dental volunteers provided more than $7 million in free dental services to more than 155,000 Ohio children in need, according to the Ohio Dental Association website.

Katie Phillips, a second-year dental student, was the outreach coordinator for the Harmon event.

She said in an e-mail that Harmon was selected because many of the students are from a low-income population. The OSU group treated about 450 children, she said.

According to Oral Health in America: A Report of the U.S. Surgeon General in 2010, more than 51 million school hours are lost each year to dental-related illnesses.

“The goal of GKAS is to provide oral hygiene education, screenings and preventative services to children who would otherwise not receive the dental attention that they need.” Phillips said. “One of the first questions we ask the child when screening them is, ‘Have you ever been to the dentist?’ and you’d be surprised. Most of them have not.”

The children received dental screening, fluoride treatment, oral care products, oral hygiene instruction and educational materials free of charge. Phillips estimates a fluoride treatment alone at a private practice could cost from $30-$45.

“It is a fun way to introduce children to dental care and get them excited about taking care of their teeth. It is also a great way to raise parents’ awareness about the importance of good oral health and to let them know of the resources available to families who cannot afford dental care,” Phillips said.

Sunny Pahouja, a fourth-year in dentistry and president of the American Student Dental Association, said he enjoys coordinating the events and helping with the screenings.

“We saw a little over 400 kids today. A lot of people enjoyed it,” Pahouja said. “Some kids asked questions about flossing, brushing, how often they should go to the dentist and whether or not they need to have braces. The kids were very responsive.”

Pahouja said about 30-40 kids needed additional care.

“We got the kids’ information and a mobile dental unit will be coming to the school in April or May,” Pahouja said.

The dental unit, called Dental “H.O.M.E” Coach, is paid for through donations.

This is the fourth year OSU dental students and faculty held the event. This year, 40 dental student volunteers were on hand to provide treatments. Some volunteers spoke to the kids about dental care in the designated waiting area.

Pahouja said the event will be held again next year, if not sooner.

Phillips warned that many people don’t know that serious illnesses might be related to dental diseases, such as gingivitis and periodontal disease.

“Just sticking to the basics — brush twice a day, floss once a day — can save children a lot of unwanted trips to the dentist and maintain a healthy smile,” Phillips said.


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