ECU dental students part of ‘Give Kids a Smile’ day
SPRUCE PINE – More than 50 area children had free dental work performed Friday, Feb. 1, at the East Carolina University Dental Community Service Learning Center in Spruce Pine.
The service learning center’s services were part of their involvement in the nationwide “Give Kids a Smile” initiative – a 15-year-old partnership between the American Dental Association and dental vendors that gives children comprehensive exams and X-rays at no cost.
The Service Learning Center Business Services Coordinator Gene Self said the center distributed material about the event throughout local schools earlier this year. Children who are not covered by dental insurance or have never visited a dentist were the target audience, but all students were welcome.
The Learning Center this past year visited area schools and performed dental services. This year marked the first time the center has hosted the event in its office on the Blue Ridge Regional Hospital campus.
Self said having the event in the office allows the hygienists and dental assistants to perform a broader range of services with a wider range of tools.
Service Learning Center Director Dean Stacy said working on Give Kids a Smile day is the perfect test for the clinical staff. The local clinical staff, he added, are ECU dental students who are completing training and also get to experience the role of dentists in a small community.
“We hope it will be a lifelong benefit for the patients,” Stacy said. “From an educational standpoint, it’s an opportunity for future dentists and dental residents to give back to the communities they serve.”
Stacy added the vision of the ECU dental program is to train dentists who will return to rural communities in the state to practice.
“We hope this will inspire a lifelong habit of giving back in their respective communities,” he said.
Seven clinical staff members joined three other students who were working their last day in a nine-week rotation during the event. Two previous ECU dental students, Mitchell County native Alex Green and Luke Current, who is headed to a pediatric residency, also participated in making the day successful.
Self said the day went smoothly and the service learning center hopes to make their participation in the event an annual tradition.
“We’re very excited,” Self said. “We’d love to make it become a regular thing.”