BYU volunteers help provide dental care for children in need

Josh Ellis
Physiology and developmental biology major and Pre-Dental Club member Jaime Carroll assists a child at the American Dental Association’s Give Kids a Smile event. Carroll was one of over 65 BYU students who volunteered at the event. (Josh Ellis)

More than 65 BYU students volunteered at Give Kids a Smile on Feb. 24. The event helped underprivileged children receive the dental care they need.

The program began 15 years ago and is organized through the American Dental Association.

According to Albert Clark, one of the volunteer dentists, this program occurs each February in many locations across the United States.

Give Kids a Smile Program Chair Mallory Castle helped organize the event. She said the minimum requirement for kids to be treated is that the family has no dental insurance.

“The majority of kids we focus on are between the ages of 5 to 12, and we do take kids that are a little older too,” Castle said.

Josh Ellis
Dental assistant Kalliopi Karaiskos works on a patient during the Give Kids a Smile event on Feb. 24, 2018. (Josh Ellis)

Student volunteers participated in this year’s event by leading the children in games, taking them to receive care from the dentist or dental hygienist and helping fill out patients’ charts.

Many of the volunteers have the goal to work in the dental field someday.

BYU student Jamie Carroll said she loved the experience she had volunteering at the event. Carroll is a member of the Pre-Dental and the Women in Dentistry clubs at BYU and hopes to become an orthodontist one day.

“There’s very few things I’d rather be doing on a Saturday … there’s a lot of people who don’t have the opportunity to get this dental care, and dental care is ridiculously important for self-confidence,” Carroll said. “I’ve seen that when people have a great smile, their confidence increases.”

More than 5.5 million underserved children have received free dental care since the program launched in 2003, according to the American Dental Association.

This year’s event took place at the Utah College of Dental Hygiene and helped around 120 children receive free dental care, according to Lauren Olsen, a BYU student and Give Kids a Smile intern.

“Thirty percent of people in Provo live below the poverty line, and this event is a small but important part of helping people get the care they deserve,” Olsen said.

According to another BYU volunteer, Bethany Coates, many of the children sorely needed this dental care.

“As I was bringing the kids around, I saw a couple of kids that wouldn’t smile, and as soon as they started talking I saw that their teeth were black, most likely because their parents can’t afford to take them to the dentist,” Coates said. “And they are probably in a lot of pain, so that is great they can get that taken care of.”

Kalliopi Karaiskos, a senior at the Utah College of Dental Hygiene, said she valued her experience volunteering at the event.

“The kids are adorable, and it’s been really great to see everybody come together and volunteer and work together for such a good cause,” Karaiskos said.

To learn more about Give Kids a Smile, visit its website.

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