Volunteer dentists in Stark County provide free care to more than 3,000 children in need

Volunteer dentists from Stark County provided free dental care to children in need Friday, Feb. 6, at the Give Kids a Smile Ohio kick-off event.

This event, held on Give Kids a Smile Day, was the official launch of the Ohio Dental Association’s 13th annual Give Kids a Smile program. Through the Give Kids a Smile program, created by the American Dental Association, dentists and dental professionals across the state and nation volunteer their time throughout the year to provide screenings, treatment and oral health education to children.

At this year’s Ohio kick-off event, volunteer dentists saw third-, fourth-, and fifth-grade students from Gibbs Elementary at Mercy Medical Center. Volunteers provided dental exams and oral hygiene instruction. The Colgate Bright Smiles Bright Futures mobile van also was on site to provide screenings, plus visited three Canton City Schools in the three days leading up to the kick-off event.

“Since I first volunteered in dental school, Give Kids a Smile has always been one of my favorite volunteer events,” said Dr. George Williams, a resident in the Mercy General Practice Dental Residency Program. “There is something about the day that always rekindles the spark of why I chose to pursue a career in dentistry.  I wanted a career dedicated to service, leadership in the community and one that could influence and change lives.  Give Kids a Smile is the unique experience where we serve the underserved, be the leaders of our communities and be the mentor every child deserves.

Kristin Byrne, TV reporter/anchor with WEWS NewsChannel5 in Cleveland, emceed the event, and U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, Assistant Superintendent of Canton City Schools Dan Nero, Canton City Health Commissioner Jim Adams and ODA President Dr. Thomas Paumier spoke at the event.

The U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Senate, Ohio House of Representatives and Ohio Senate presented proclamations and commendations.

“Dental residents, faculty and Stark County Dental Society member dentists saw several hundred Canton city school children at the hospital for screenings and treatment,” Paumier said. “Other Stark County Dental Society dentists visited elementary schools throughout the district and examined about 2,900 children. Follow-up care will be provided by Stark County dentists for those with immediate needs. For some, this may have been their first or only visit to a dentist and was a unique opportunity to educate them, their families and teachers about the benefits of good oral health to ensure a lifetime of smiles.”

In addition to the event at Mercy Medical Center, volunteers with the Stark County Dental Society went into 12 Canton City Elementary Schools to provide free dental care to the children. Nearly $100,000 in free dental care is estimated to have been donated through the Stark County Dental Society’s initiatives on this Give Kids a Smile kick-off day.

Across Ohio, local dental societies and individual dental offices held Give Kids a Smile events on the kick-off day and will hold events throughout the year. For 2015, about 1,600 volunteers are expected to provide nearly $800,000 in care to about 19,000 children in need in Ohio.