I was 14 years into my career as a dentist when I began thinking beyond just growing my practice. I had heard various stories about children in my community who could not afford dental care. Some of them had never even had their own toothbrush.
I reached out to the Kansas City Chiefs and pitched them a crazy idea. Would it be possible to invite 100 children to Arrowhead Stadium to meet some of the players? At the same time, I would recruit local dentists who would provide free dental care to these kids.
Luckily, they thought this crazy idea was great.
The Chiefs partnered me with punter Dustin Colquitt, and we hosted our first TeamSmile event at Arrowhead, outside the stadium in parking lot tents. I invited other dentists and dental school students throughout the Kansas City area, all in the spirit of helping children who desperately needed our services. We also wanted to remove any fear or negativity associated with seeing a dentist and make the experience positive for these kids and their families. We accomplished both.
The event has grown, not only in the number of children treated, but also in the number of communities we impact. TeamSmile now travels the country, visiting more than 30 stadiums and arenas and partnering with the National Football League, Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, Major League Soccer, and the National Basketball Association every year to treat approximately 300 kids and give $250,000 worth of free dental work at each stop.
This work may include oral health assessments including x-rays, cleanings, sealants, fillings, extractions, crowns, and even laser treatment if necessary as well as education about the significance of good oral hygiene and instructions for proper brushing and flossing techniques. Children also go home with a new toothbrush and toothpaste so they have the tools to succeed in taking care of their teeth.
When a child requires more care than can be provided at the TeamSmile event that day, typically, one of the volunteer dentists from that city will “adopt” the child. In other words, these volunteers will see these children back at their own practice on another day after the program, whether it be just to finish up the treatment that wasn’t completed or to provide free dental care until the child turns 18.
TeamSmile also provides participating children with a list of dental homes in their local area that take insurance for those with lower incomes. At most of the programs, the local dental school participates, and we are able to offer the clinics at these schools as viable resources for additional dental post-program care for the children as well.
At our Kansas City Chiefs program last year, we saw a young teenage boy who had cavities as well as a speech impediment that was due to a condition known as lip tie. We used a Biolase Waterlase laser to perform a frenectomy, and the child was able to speak normally in a matter of minutes.
Just last month, at our Sporting KC event, there was a teenage girl who had been told by her family since she was four years old that she would always have bad teeth. When TeamSmile chose her school to be one of the ones that would come to the soccer stadium for treatment, she took it upon herself to make sure her parents filled out the form. It turned out that she needed a root canal on her two front teeth.
One of the dentists who volunteered at the program that day did the procedure and, afterward, the girl told our program director it was the first time she had ever wanted to smile in 14 years. She still had other work that needed to be done, so after the program, I adopted her into my practice to finish the treatment. I wanted to prove to her that all smiles are fixable, despite what she had been told.
There are numerous dentists all across the country who close their offices for the day and bring their staffs to our events to provide free dental work for these children and TeamSmile. Beyond dentists and teams, some of our greatest supporters include Drew Brees, Justin Timberlake, and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
But in every city that we visit, we need volunteers to make it work! We are always looking for dentists, dental assistants, hygienists, sterilization techs, dental students, and general volunteers. We’re also always looking for dental vendors that feel their products might be able to benefit children’s dentistry.
We pride ourselves on the care we give these children on the days we visit stadiums and arenas, and we feel confident that the experience will last them a lifetime.
For more information on TeamSmile, please visit teamsmile.org.
Dr. Busch has been practicing dentistry and helping people in the Kansas City area for nearly 20 years. He holds a DMD from the Fairleigh Dickinson University College of Dental Medicine and is a Master with the Academy of General Dentistry. Also, he was named one of America’s Top Dentists in 2009 and 2010. He has been the official team dentist of the Kansas City Chiefs since 2012. And, he is the founder of TiScrubs.