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Giving Kids A Smile

Entire dental school clinic devoted to free dental care for KC area children on 'Give Kids A Smile' Day

The smiles of local elementary school children filled the clinics and corridors of the UMKC School of Dentistry during Give Kids a Smile day on Friday, February 3. All of the 240 dental operatories in the UMKC School of Dentistry’s main clinic and virtually all of the school’s students and clinical faculty were devoted to providing free oral healthcare to disadvantaged children from throughout the KC metro area. This is the seventh year the School of Dentistry has participated in Give Kids a Smile.

During the morning session student doctors delivered care to approximately 230 elementary school students who were pre-screened and referred to the School of Dentistry from Score 1 for Health, which is sponsored by the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences and the Deron Cherry Foundation. The afternoon session was devoted to delivering care to elementary school students who were referred to the School by the Miles of Smiles program, which serves the Olathe, Kan., School District.

The children participating in Give Kids a Smile at UMKC were selected during routine health screenings that Score 1 for Health and the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences perform at elementary schools in the KCMO, KCK, Hickman Mills and Raytown school districts. Score 1 for Health also subsidizes and arranges the bus transportation for the children to travel to and from the School of Dentistry.

Miles of Smiles is a collaborative outreach program that enables UMKC senior dental hygiene students to staff an onsite portable dental clinic in selected Olathe schools and deliver preventive care to underserved children who qualify for the District’s free and reduced lunch program. Miles of Smiles receives funding from the REACH Healthcare Foundation.

The Give Kids a Smile oral healthcare and education provided by the School of Dentistry is delivered by third- and fourth-year dental students with assistance from first- and second-year students. Senior dental hygiene students are also involved with treating the children. Other participants in UMKC’s Give Kids a Smile activities include Penn Valley dental assisting students, members of UMKC’s Pre-Dental Club and dentists from the Greater Kansas City Dental Society. The oral healthcare delivered by UMKC’s dental and dental hygiene students is supervised by clinical faculty and volunteer dentists.

According to Dr. Michael McCunniff, director of UMKC oral health outreach programs, Give Kids a Smile accomplishes multiple goals for the school in particular, and oral healthcare in general.

“Serving the needs of underserved children is obviously the primary purpose of the program. But there are other benefits as well,” he said. “For instance, the health screenings at the area elementary schools and the oral healthcare delivered at the Dental School enable public health professionals to collect data that can be used to address the oral healthcare needs in communities throughout the metro area. Give Kids a Smile also enables our dental and dental hygiene students to participate in community-based programs that enrich and expand their educational experiences.”

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"Serving the needs of underserved children is obviously the primary purpose of the program. Give Kids a Smile also enables our dental and dental hygiene students to participate in community-based programs that enrich and expand their educational experiences."

Dr. Michael McCunniff
Director, UMKC Oral Health Outreach Programs