Champions of Oral Health: TeamSmile events bring together dental professionals, sports, children in need

TeamSmile has recently brought together dental professionals and professional sports organizations to provide dental care to underserved children in Cincinnati.

“Team Smile improves the dental health for children in so many ways,” said Dr. Desiree Moore, an Ohio Dental Association member from West Chester. “It cannot happen without the hard work of volunteers. I have had the honor of participating with TeamSmile for a couple years. I recognize the faces of some of the children that I saw in previous years. I wish I could boast that huge improvements have been made to the access to care, but I’m reminded how much work there is still left each time I see how many children are in need.”

TeamSmile is a nonprofit initiative that was started in 2007 and is supported by Henry Schein. Events are hosted at the home of NFL, MLB, NBA and college teams across the U.S. to help create an experience where children want to visit the dentist.

“It was amazing that children were able to just walk in and get treated,” said Dr. Ruchika Khetarpal, an Ohio Dental Association member from Cincinnati. “There are so many families that do not have vehicles to take their children to get care, so setting up in their community or by having busing through schools is a great way to provide care in the community. Some children stopped in with their friends, took a consent form home to get signed and came back on their own for treatment. These children wanted us to help them!”

TeamSmile recently held two events in Cincinnati. The first was on July 11 during Major League Baseball’s All Star Weekend at the US Banks Boys and Girls Club. At the event, 116 children received complimentary oral health assessments and treatment, including X-rays, fillings, cleanings and sealants. Volunteers also educated children on the importance of good oral hygiene and proper brushing and flossing techniques.

“This is our third year partnering with TeamSmile and each year the event brings more smiles to the children we help,” said Butch Stenger, Henry Schein Dental’s regional manager in Cincinnati. “I am so proud of the Cincinnati dental community who were so eager to fill the much needed volunteer positions – all in just three days. The quick mobilization of Team Schein volunteers says a lot about our team and everyone’s willingness to ‘give back’ and ‘help health happen’ for children in our area.”

The All-Star event was Khetarpal’s first time volunteering at a TeamSmile event.

“I had a young girl with caries on her front tooth,” she said. “She and her grandma were so thankful and happy to have the opportunity to get her tooth fixed. Giving confidence to a fifth-grader to smile is priceless.”

Additionally, TeamSmile hosted an event Sept. 25 at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati. At the event, 90 volunteers treated about 250 children.

Moore said she has been volunteering at TeamSmile events for the past three years.

“The first year I participated in the TeamSmile event, I saw a little girl that was 9 years old,” she said. “She had a swollen jaw and true dental pain. I asked her how long her tooth hurt. She looked away as if she was ashamed to give me her real answer and said, ‘A month or two.’ We got the girl the dental care she needed and communicated with her teachers to get the antibiotics she needed. It hurt my heart to see so much dental decay in our beautiful city of Cincinnati. My part is small compared to the entire group, but if each of us comes back every year I hope we can make a progressive positive impact with the education and dental care that is provided.”

In support of the 2015 TeamSmile program, Henry Schein Cares, the company’s global corporate social responsibility program, has donated approximately $50,000 in dental supplies, materials and equipment, as well as transportation.

“Team Smile would not be successful without its volunteers,” Moore said. “I’m not speaking of just the dentists, hygienists or dental assistants, who are essential. There is so much more involved. For example, the teachers and parents that come to support the children allowing us to communicate with them regarding follow up care the children need. The kids get excited when they see a football player, a Bengals cheerleader or a mascot to give them a high five or even a reassuring pat. Young volunteers are there giving them education which is vital to maintain their dental health. All of it builds upon itself to make the entire organization great. I volunteer because I believe in the cause. Our children are our future and we need to take care of them.”