Faculty Students

Free clinic gives kids a smile, encourages good oral health practices5 min read

April 1, 2019

Free clinic gives kids a smile, encourages good oral health practices5 min read

Ann Arbor, Mich., April 1, 2019 — The importance of children’s oral health was the message delivered Saturday by students at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry as they conducted the annual “Give Kids a Smile!” Clinic.

Parents from the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti area brought 52 children from ages 4 to 17 to the second-floor clinics at the dental school for free check-ups, cleanings and treatment of a variety of conditions. Any serious problems that were discovered were referred to the family dentist or other specialists. The dental and dental hygiene students who volunteered to conduct the clinic were supervised by faculty. The clinic is also a chance for students to talk with the kids about the importance of brushing and flossing for those who haven’t yet gotten into the habit, and to reinforce the good check-ups for children who already regularly brush and floss.

A young patient in the waiting room uses an oversized toothbrush on “Toothy,” the school mascot. 

In addition, the clinic is a good place for young children -– with parents by their side in some cases -–  to learn that dentists are friendly, dental tools do good things and dental appointments can be fun. Rachel Reid, a third-year dental student, patiently won over a 4-year-old girl who at first cried loudly as Reid began an exam and cleaning. Reid and the girl’s mother reassured the child with some light-hearted banter and by asking her to count out loud as Rachel touched each of her teeth. Soon the girl was happily following directions about when to open and close her mouth, and the exam was finished with only a few brief delays.

“Especially the little ones, they can get a little scared,” Reid said. “I just try to get them as distracted as possible, tell a story, or a lot of them like to help you count their teeth or be involved in the process. I just try to make it as friendly an environment as possible and try to keep their mind off of what you are actually doing.” Contributing to a fun atmosphere in the waiting room were the school’s mascot, “Toothy,” who let kids play with an oversized toothbrush, a large inflated whale pool toy and colorful decorations with a theme of “Spring Break Hawaii.”

Dental students Lauren Paolini (left) and Briana Lung team up on a boy’s treatment.

MaryClaire Kiernan, a second-year dental student who co-chaired the student organizing committee, said the kids’ clinic is a great way for students to enhance their skills in working with children while the children benefit by having the students talk about why it’s important to brush and floss — something it’s never too early to teach. “Our patients receive much needed oral health care as well as education in order to help promote positive oral health routines and prevent future dental disease,” she said. “For our student volunteers and future dental professionals, I believe the event promotes the values of service and community outreach.”

After dental student Evan Templeman finished treating Tyson McClendon, he shared a high-five with the boy.

The ADA started the “Give Kids a Smile!” event in 2003 as a way for the dentistry profession to provide free services for underprivileged kids. Similar clinics are held around the country each year. Kiernan and third-year student Patrick Glisczinski led the dental school’s organizing committee with assistance from first-year students Carley Fox and Jordan Schultz. The event is sponsored by the dental school in association with the American Dental Association and the Washtenaw District Dental Society. Other local sponsors who provided food and supplies were Zingerman’s, Dimo’s Donuts and Barry’s Bagels.

Dr. Steve Stefanac (center), Senior Associate Dean and Associate Dean for Patient Services, is joined by students Carly Fox and Jordan Schultz in their lobster hats, part of the fun atmosphere.


The University of Michigan School of Dentistry is one of the nation’s leading dental schools engaged in oral health care education, research, patient care and community service.  General dental care clinics and specialty clinics providing advanced treatment enable the school to offer dental services and programs to patients throughout Michigan.  Classroom and clinic instruction prepare future dentists, dental specialists and dental hygienists for practice in private offices, hospitals, academia and public agencies.  Research seeks to discover and apply new knowledge that can help patients worldwide.  For more information about the School of Dentistry, visit us on the Web at: www.dent.umich.edu.  Contact: Lynn Monson, associate director of communications, atdentistry.communications@umich.edu, or (734) 615-1971.