Durham Head Start children receive free dental care from UNC School of Dentistry
Posted on 02.24.2014, Monday

By: Lynsay Williams
Guest blogger
UNC Chapel Hill Class of 2016
Journalism and Hispanic Studies Major

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, and in honor of this, organizations across the nation held Give Kids a Smile events to promote good oral hygiene. On Friday, February 7th, the UNC School of Dentistry hosted the first ever Give Kids a Smile event at UNC. The event included free dental cleaning as well as an interactive health fair.

I don’t know if the name of the event originated from giving kids a healthy smile by giving them free dental cleaning or putting a smile on their face with all the fun activities, but the approximately 119 children from Durham Head Start, ages 3-5, that came to UNC got both!

In addition to free dental exams, they got to be dentists themselves – complete with a medical gowns, masks and dental mirrors – and count the teeth of Mr. Elephant, a very accommodating patient. Have you ever seen a three-foot tall dentist? Needless to say, Mr. Elephant was not afraid, for he was in good hands! Mr. Elephant had some equally toothy, equally fluffy friends that needed help with their brushing. The children stepped up to the plate with the help of some very large brushes and volunteers.

Other professional schools at UNC participated too, including the Schools of Nursing, Medicine, and the Gillings School of Global Public Health, to incorporate activities on nutrition and wellness. The children also had the opportunity to engage with UNC athletes for some physical activity, an important part of the Head Start program.

Each station was aimed at creating positive associations in the minds of the children participating, so that they can be good dental patients and health patients in the future. After all the fun they were exposed to that day, I can’t imagine they would think of anything else when going to the dentist.

The event was also very inclusive. There were parents, Head Start teachers and the Director of Durham Head Start, Terry David. The children had fun and learned a lot about oral care and hygiene, but David offered something else that they could take away from the event. He said the fair was planting “seeds of achievement” by showcasing several health professions.

Maybe in the future the children will want to move their dentistry work beyond teddy bears. But whether or not there were future dentists, doctors, or nurses among the group, they got some interactive lessons that children and parents can incorporate into their daily routines.

Everyone from Head Start was very appreciative for the opportunities the children received at the event. But honestly, I don’t know who was happier to be there – the kids or the volunteers!

For more information about the Partnership’s efforts to address children’s dental health in Durham, please click here to learn about the Great Human Race and help us reach our goal of raising $3,000 for dental health kits.

 For more information about the Give Kids a Smile day at UNC, please click here.

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