As the sun rose over a chilly Longwood Avenue, the Teaching Practices of the Harvard Dental Center was humming as dental students prepared to host Give Kids a Smile. Launched in 2003 by the American Dental Association, Give Kids a Smile is an event held annually that focuses on the oral health of children between the ages of one and 17. This year’s event was held on Saturday, February 9 and was well received by members of the surrounding communities.
Each year, Give Kids a Smile is organized by a group of dedicated dental students, known as the Give Kids a Smile Leadership Ambassadors. This year’s team included Elodi Healy, DMD2020, Emily Chen, DMD2021, Owen Cheng, DMD2021, Jennifer Lee, DMD2021, and Ruchika Agrawal, DMD2022. The Harvard Dental Center welcomed a total of 48 patients throughout the morning and care was delivered by 18 dental providers, 22 assistants, three medical student volunteers, and five oral health care education volunteers.
Student leader Elodi Healy said, “Working on bringing Give Kids a Smile to HSDM for the past three years has shown me how important it is to give back to the community that we are all a part of.” She added, “We strive not only to provide a singular day of delivering care and oral health education, but to establish care continuity and dental homes for children and their families.”
Although it is her first year at HSDM, Ruchika Agrawal insisted on becoming involved in this exciting event right away. “I was inspired to get involved with Give Kids a Smile because of the impact this event has on the community,” she said. “It’s not only about providing dental care but also about educating the community, which I believe is so valuable. I look forward to continuing to help coordinate this event at HSDM in the coming years.”
As Serena, 7, listened intently to providers Nicki Gershberg, DMD2022, and Mai Stern, DMD2020, discuss the importance of flossing, her mother Meredith said, “She gets great attention from Harvard students and faculty. It teaches her the importance of good dental hygiene in a fun way that she will most definitely remember.”
This year’s event incorporated members of HSDM’s own Operation Mouthguard. Operation Mouthguard is a student-run organization that provides oral health education and custom-made mouthguards for children and high school sports teams in underserved areas of Boston. Fifteen patients were fitted for mouthguards to be used for recreational sports. No one was more excited than Lawrence, 10, who talked about his aspirations to play basketball for the NBA. He even selected a clear mouthguard to mimic many of the league’s most prominent players. “When I make the NBA someday, I’ll remember that you made my first mouthguard for me,” he assured his provider.
“The dedication of our students and faculty are what make this event a success each year,” said Elodi. “Our team would have been lost without the help of our classmates, who spread the word about our event and volunteered their time this Saturday. Likewise, the HSDM community was crucial in helping us prepare for the big day, setting us up for success by ensuring we had all of the tools we needed to provide care that day.”