Dental volunteers offer free care
by Annalise Baker-Whitcomb
MUSC dental students and professionals from the community volunteered together on March 1 during the Give Kids a Smile event for National Children's Dental Health month.
Summerville's Brennan Flesher, 3, flashes a smile as junior dental student Meghan Carter prepares her for an X-ray as part of Give Kids a Smile event March 1. More than 60 Tri-county area children received free dental exams.
The volunteers gave children free examinations, radiographs, cleanings and restorative treatment, as well as education on dental hygiene. The event had about 60 appointments in addition to walk-in patients ranging from 3 to 16 years of age, according to Katherine Renne, DMD, an assistant professor in the College of Dental Medicine.
Renne said the event was a "huge community collaboration" of dental students from MUSC and Trident Technical College, MUSC dental faculty and other local professionals totaling 64 dental students and 25 dental professionals. The donated dental treatment was valued at approximately $25,600.
For many children, this was their first experience at the dentist's office. MUSC volunteers tried to make it fun by providing face painting and other activities. Amy Fisher said her youngest daughter, 3-year-old Brennan, is "scared of all big chairs, especially in a doctor's office," but was calmed by how friendly the dental students were who worked on her older sister, who had an earlier appointment.
Many of the children being treated were from under-served communities or were without dental insurance, said Renne. The volunteers emphasized follow-up appointments and continued dental care with parents, raising awareness about the need for year-round oral hygiene and care.
Candice Vinson, a third-year dental student at MUSC, said she was glad to have the opportunity to participate and had a lot of fun. Vinson said the volunteers tried to get all the treatment done for each child on that day so that they would not have to make another appointment.
Chrystal Still, a mother of three, was transitioning between insurance plans and said the clinic happened at the "perfect time." Still heard about the clinic through her daughter's pre-school, Bethany United Methodist. She said that because of this visit, she will most likely stay with MUSC for future dental care and described the entire experience as "extremely positive" for her children.