USC University of Southern California

USC’s Future Dental Professionals Give Kids a Smile

Over 150 kids at John W. Mack Elementary School received a free oral health checkup and dental care supplies from Ostrow School of Dentistry students as part of the annual Give Kids a Smile Day outreach event on February 4.

Held on the first Friday in February, Give Kids a Smile Day emphasizes the importance of regular dental checkups and good oral health habits for children. This year is the Ostrow School of Dentistry’s tenth year of conducting one of the more than 1700 events scheduled for the day throughout the nation.

“Untreated dental disease is serious,” said Roseann Mulligan, Chair of the Division of Public Health and Pediatric Dentistry at the Ostrow School of Dentistry. “It is painful and affects a child’s physical, emotional and social development and negatively impacts activities such as sleeping, eating and learning.”

Low-income children are especially vulnerable to the ill effects of poor oral health, she added, with 80 percent of tooth decay in the US found in only 25 percent of American children.

Of the children who had oral health screenings at Mack Elementary, 25 who were identified as urgently needing further dental care received a free $100 voucher to be seen in the Ostrow School of Dentistry’s Pediatric Dental Clinic, courtesy of the Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation. The Foundation also generously supplied hundreds of books as free gifts for the children during the event.

Every classroom also received a visit from USC dental and dental hygiene students, who taught the kids about the importance of good dental habits and smart food choices. Aided by colorful puppets with big teeth and oversized toothbrushes, the students helped the youngsters practice good tooth brushing techniques.

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Above: fourth-grader Betsy Nuñez receives an oral health screening from Sanaz Yousefi Moghadam, DDS ’12.
Below: Betsy shows off her Trojan spirit along with her new book.

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Fourth grader Betsy Nuñez was excited that the Ostrow School of Dentistry students had come to her school, especially since she’s a “big fan” of USC and lists it as her “dream college”.

“I’m really looking forward to getting my teeth checked,” she said as she waited to be called for her screening. “I’m really impressed with all of the work that they’re doing for us.”

Christina Petrilla, a member of the Doctor of Dental Surgery class of 2014, said it was important to provide oral health education to kids at an early age.

“Prevention is the most important part of dentistry,” she said. “You have to start early in order to have a longer lasting effect on kids’ oral health. Plus, the kids are always so excited; to them, it’s fun, and it’s not hard to make a good impression.”

Saloni Mody, a class of 2011 Dental Hygiene student, added that it was critical for her and her fellow students to go out into the community in this fashion, not only to care for kids who need oral health help but also to gain important professional experience.

“We get an idea of what oral health knowledge patients and their families have, as well as what options are available to them,” she said.

Dean Avishai Sadan was on site to observe the dentistry and dental hygiene students providing care and education during the Give Kids a Smile event.

“Opportunities like these are critical,” he said. “They are truly win-win situations for both the kids who get dental checkups and knowledge and the Ostrow students who get to see firsthand how important the issue of children’s oral health really is. And it also shows us that we’re continuing to educate clinicians with both talent and compassion here at the Ostrow School of Dentistry.”