Five-year-old Ayrum Harris grasped a smiling rubber ducky in one hand while holding onto the hand of a dental student. After getting settled into a dental chair for an exam, the student gave him a pair of brightly-colored sunglasses to protect his eyes and explained how together they would count and polish his teeth, learn how to brush and floss, and fight cavity bugs. Ayrum put on the glasses and beamed in anticipation.
“They loved it,” said Luereta Sealey who brought Ayrum and his sister LaMara to the Harvard Dental Center for Give Kids a Smile. “This is an excellent program. We will definitely return,” she said.
Spreading smiles is par for the course for Give Kids a Smile. This year, the program held on Saturday, February 3, brought more than forty kids ages 1-17 to the Harvard Dental Center’s Teaching Practices Clinic to receive free dental care. The annual event is part of a nationwide effort championed by the American Dental Association since 2003.
HSDM student Mirissa Price, DMD2019, one of ten Give Kids a Smile Leadership Ambassadors with the ADA Foundation, organized this year’s Give Kids a Smile with Justin Montenegro DMD2019, Elodi Healy DMD2020, Emily Chen, DMD2021 and Owen Cheng, DMD2021. Student volunteers, faculty and staff provided free dental exams, cleanings, sealants, x-rays and educational activities. The educational games included pirate-themed treasure, arts and crafts, and face painting, music and sing-alongs.
“Each and every volunteer and participant made such an incredible impact in such a short time. We cared for 42 children and I'm sure we'll see many of those families again in our clinics soon with everyone's incredible focus on continuity of care for these families,” Price said.
Price, an aspiring pediatric dentist, speaks compellingly about the impact programs like Give Kids a Smile can have to overcome barriers to dental care.
“I envision in my dental career a world in which all of our children, in some manner, have access to dental care. A child’s healthy smile is never a privilege but a right,” Price wrote in a recent article in Medium.
“I look forward to seeing Give Kids a Smile continue to grow at HSDM, and to working with this unbelievable team of students, coordinators, faculty, and staff again next year,” she said.