Nova Southeastern University’s (NSU) College of Dental Medicine provided pro-bono dental services to 750 school children and special needs patients in South Florida on Friday, February 5, 2016 to help kick off the ADA Foundation’s Give Kids A Smile (GKAS) Day program.

The children received examinations, cleanings, oral health education, preventive and restorative services at no cost (valued at more than $300,000).

NSU was selected by the ADA Foundation among 1,500 sites throughout the Unites States as the GKAS national launch site due to the university’s leading efforts since launching the program more than a decade ago.

“Each year, Nova Southeastern University College of Dental Medicine’s Give Kids A Smile program provides dental care to several hundred children, many of whom have never visited the dentist,” said Linda Niessen, D.M.D., M.P.H., M.P.P., dean of the college. “This student-led program engages faculty, staff and community members who serve as volunteers in the day’s events, enabling our students to realize their leadership potential. GKAS also teaches our College of Dental Medicine students the power of giving back to the community, which is a core value of Nova Southeastern University.”

This year, in addition to continuing to partner with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Broward County and other community organizations to reach out to children and their families, NSU teamed up with Broward County Public Schools, which sent students and teachers from eight elementary schools in the county. Several school principals estimated that this was the first trip to the dentist for approximately 80 percent of their school children.

The U.S. Surgeon General reports that tooth decay is the most common disease of childhood, five times more common than asthma, and children don’t learn when they are suffering from dental pain. In addition, it is estimated that more than 51 million school hours are lost each year to dental-related illness.

“It was heartwarming to see the students come into our clinic with big smiles and leave with even bigger ones,” said Kelly Cundy, fourth year NSU dental student and co-coordinator of NSU’s GKAS Day. “Knowing that we helped educate these young children about the importance of dental care makes all of our hard work worthwhile.”

“This would not have been possible without an incredible team of over 500 dental student volunteers,” added Adam Saltz, third year NSU dental student and co-coordinator of NSU’s GKAS Day. “In addition, this year, we added osteopathic medical students and pharmacy students to educate the children about health and wellness, which added a true interprofessional element to the program”

NSU’s GKAS is student organized and led. NSU faculty members participate in this community service event and supervise dental students in this project.

Attendees enjoyed a fun carnival atmosphere with former Miami Dolphins player O.J. McDuffie and cheerleaders, Florida Panthers mascot Stanley C. Panther, face painters, balloon artists, clowns, music, Elsa and Anna from “Frozen,” and “Timmy the Tooth.”

NSU’s event is the kickoff for the 1,500 GKAS events scheduled to take place throughout the year. GKAS events range from those similar to NSU’s, which provide services to hundreds of children in a day, to individual dentists providing pro-bono oral health services and a dental home to one or several children under the Give Kids A Smile banner. Throughout 2016, approximately 300,000 underserved children will receive oral health services from 40,000 or more volunteers, including 10,000 dentists.

“The mission of the ADA Foundation includes education and access to care, and nothing embodies those goals better than the Give Kids A Smile program. For 14 years, Give Kids A Smile has worked to improve oral care for children, and its history is rich with examples of how we achieve those goals,” said Reneida Reyes, D.D.S., M.P.H., president, ADA Foundation. “Since its inception we estimate that more than 5 million children have been educated about the importance of good oral health care, and many of those same children have had access to basic oral care at GKAS events.”

NSU GKAS sponsors include Henry Schein Cares; Colgate Oral Pharmaceuticals; Inc.; KaVo Kerr Group; American Student Dental Association; and NSU College of Dental Medicine’s Student Government Association.

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