Children in western New York received free dental screenings and education in May through Colgate Bright Smiles, Bright Futures program, which brings dental care to underserved rural and urban communities. With the support of nine University at Buffalo (UB) School of Dental Medicine students and staff, the program screened more than 800 elementary students from six schools in Niagara County.
“UB Dental chose to participate in this event not only to assist families with dental awareness, education, and access to care, but also because it is a priority of the school to help and be active in the community, making a difference one smile at a time,” said Misty Garrett, dental hygienist and clinical instructor in the Department of Periodontics and Endodontics at the UB School of Dental Medicine.
“We value our relationship with Colgate-Palmolive. Over the past few years, we have partnered with Colgate-Palmolive in research and educational activities. Here, we are partnering with them once again to bring necessary services to the communities we serve,” said Stephen Abel, DDS, associate dean for student, community, and professional initiatives at the UB School of Dental Medicine.
The screenings were performed in Colgate’s mobile dental van, a 32-foot-long clinic that features two dental chairs and friendly visuals to help create a fun and less intimidating dental experience. UB Dental students and members of Buffalo Outreach and Community Assistance, a student-led organization dedicated to promoting dental education and providing free dental care for people around the world, also assisted with patient charting and education.
“This was actually one of the most fun outreaches I have done for the school,” said Victoria Maglaras, second-year dental student at the UB School of Dental Medicine.
“I know some kids were having their first dental appointment. It was nice to be part of the education process for kids so young and to reach so many kids. To make them aware of good habits, break things down into simple information they can understand and see the light bulb switch in their minds is special,” said Maglaras.
After screenings, parents receive a “report card” for their child that grades their oral health and recommends follow-up care if needed. Families who do not have a regular dentist are provided with referrals to a dentist in their area.
“So many children miss days of school because of toothaches, pain, and being ill. It’s important to capture these issues and to educate them early. These can become serious issues if left untreated,” said Carla Johnson, New York program coordinator for Colgate Bright Smiles, Bright Futures.
The three-day mission was organized through a collaboration between Colgate-Palmolive, the UB School of Dental Medicine, and the Niagara Falls Chapter of the Links, Incorporated, an international volunteer service organization for professional women of color that is committed to enriching the culture and economic survival of African-Americans and people of African ancestry.
Colgate Bright Smiles, Bright Futures operates nine state of the art mobile dental vans that are equipped to screen more than 10 million children each year for common oral health conditions. In addition to providing care to underserved youth in rural and urban communities, the program works to raise awareness of the importance of children’s dental health.