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Give Special Kids a Smile Event Offers Free Dental Care for Children with Special Needs

Give Special Kids a Smile volunteers gather to share information about treating patients with special needs.

March  05, 2012

Families with special-needs children gathered at Oakland's Highland General Hospital Dental Clinic on March 3 for Give Special Kids a Smile, an event which offered free dental care to families in need. The event was the result of a joint partnership between Highland Hospital, the Dugoni School of Dentistry and the Alameda County Dental Society. It was organized by Dr. Anthony Mock, director of the Highland Hospital Dental Clinic, and Dr. Allen Wong, director of Hospital Dentistry at the Dugoni School.

Children with special needs are a population vulnerable to dental caries (cavities), and often need complex dental care. Event attendees received dental screenings, oral hygiene education, caries risk assessment, fluoride varnish, X-rays and minimally invasive procedures as needed. Each participant was also given a tour of a dental clinic and a dental goody bag. The participants were individually counseled on brushing and flossing techniques, and guided in the use of new battery-operated toothbrushes provided in their goody bags.

Give Special Kids a Smile

Volunteers and a participating family at Give Special Kids a Smile on March 3.

The event was supported by volunteer dentists from Highland Hospital and the Alameda County Dental Society, as well as student volunteers from Pacific's Student Community Outreach for Public Education (SCOPE), area dental hygiene programs. and post baccalaureate students from San Francisco State University and CSU East Bay. Other community volunteers were also on hand to help. Special Olympics Special Smiles generously donated supplies for the event.

In addition to providing care, Give Special Kids a Smile was also meant to bring awareness to the dental community about the access-to-care issues facing vulnerable populations. Physical and intellectual disabilities can alter how dental treatment is administered and received, and it's important for dental professionals to understand how to care for patients with special needs.

"By hosting this event we decided to honor children with special needs and their families," said Wong. "Our hope is to lessen preventable dental disease, pain and suffering in one of the most at-risk populations as well as increase the access to care issue."

Prior to the start of the day, Wong provided an orientation on the concerns of people with special needs, access to care and the new sciences of caries risk. He also raised awareness for this year's kickoff of the "R-word: Spread the Word to End the Word" campaign.

Give Special Kids a Smile was held to coincide with the American Dental Association's Give Kids a Smile® Program and National Children's Dental Health Month. Each year more than 1,500 Give Kids a Smile events — which all offer free dental care and education — are held throughout the United States. It's estimated that approximately 400,000 children benefit from Give Kids a Smile events annually.

Category Type: Community Outreach

Contact:  Office of Public Relations, 415.929.6434, pr@pacific.edu