Volunteer dentists see nearly 200 children at Give Kids a Smile Ohio kickoff event in Canton

Volunteers from the Stark County Dental Society and Mercy Medical Center general practice resident program provided free screenings to about 200 students from Gibbs Elementary at the Give Kids a Smile Ohio kickoff event.

Volunteer dentists from the Stark County Dental Society provided free dental care to nearly 200 children in need on Feb. 6 at the Give Kids a Smile Ohio kickoff event.

“This yearly kickoff is so important as it provides access to dental care to those most in need, demonstrates the caring and compassion of member dentists and our profession, and highlights to policy makers the importance of good oral health to overall health,” said ODA President Dr. Thomas Paumier.

The event was the official launch of the Ohio Dental Association’s 13th annual Give Kids a Smile program, where dental professionals 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 and saw 373 children.

Shana Rozier, a student, family and community support coordinator with Canton City School District, said the district is grateful for the volunteer dentists, staff and community partners who work together to provide oral health care and education to the students, many of whom are in need of urgent dental care.

“Ironically, when I returned to my office after participating in the Give Kids a Smile event, I was immediately informed that a student was picked up by a parent due to excruciating tooth pain,” she said. “Additionally, the school nurse informed me that a student that was identified during the Give Kids a Smile event last year and needed immediate care was screened again this year and continues to require immediate care. Now that our staff and partners are armed with this information, we will be working more closely with the child’s family to identify any barriers that may be preventing this child from receiving the proper care and treatment that is needed.”

She added that the district is fortunate to have a care coordinator and school nurses who work together to link students and families to Mercy Medical Center’s Dental Clinic and other dental services in the area for follow-up care.

“I’m confident Give Kids a Smile has positively impacted thousands of children’s lives through screenings, definitive treatment and oral health education” said Dr. George R. Williams, a general practice resident at Mercy Medical Center. “Yet, we must do more because the need is too great. One day is not enough. We must continue our relentless pursuit of preventive dentistry through patient education in our offices and community daily. It’s one thing to give kids a smile for a day. It’s another to provide the tools needed for a child to smile for a lifetime.”

Dr. Williams’ father, Dr. George T. Williams, a general dentist in Canton, also volunteered at the event.

“Give Kids a Smile was a family affair! My wife, Claudia, and my staff were volunteers along with my son George and the rest of the dental residents,” said Dr. George T. Williams. “It was a joyous occasion when George chose dentistry as his profession and it continues as we work together educating our community, developing lasting relationships with our patients, and promoting solid dental programs to the children. Unfortunately George and I were in two different areas screening the school kids. I did hear though he was a great Dr. Rabbit!”

In addition to screening patients, Dr. George R. Williams dressed as the Colgate mascot, Dr. Rabbit, to visit with the students.

He said his dad has been a role model throughout his life.

“My dad has been a tremendous influence in my life and decision to join the dental profession,” he said. “It’s so much fun to share the same passion and be able to work side by side with him. Minus his constant razzing about me wearing the purple Dr. Rabbit bunny suit at Give Kids a Smile.”

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.

“By every measure this year’s Give Kids a Smile kick-off event at Mercy Medical Center in Canton was a success,” Paumier said. “With two U.S. congressmen and two state legislators as well as the Canton City schools assistant superintendent and Canton City Department of Health commissioner attending, key policy makers were educated on the importance and value of good oral health starting at a young age. This personal interaction is vital when advocating for resources to improve access to care for those most in need. Additionally the image of the profession was enhanced by volunteer members who educate, screen and treat the children who participated.”

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 1,474 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.

For a full list of Give Kids a Smile dentist and clinic participants, see the April issue of the “ODA Today.”