Ohio State Dental Journal

A Reason to Smile

Give Kids a Smile Helps and Inspires

Most dental professionals and students who have participated in a Give Kids a Smile day will likely agree that the event is crucial for children who might not otherwise receive the dental care they need. But as the volunteer students who participate in the College of Dentistry's event are learning, Give Kids a Smile can have an important impact on them personally. For many, the experience is creating or reinforcing a commitment to serve the community after graduation. 

GKAS organizers
Becca Bartlett '17 (second from left) has served as the chief organizer for the college's Give Kids a Smile event since 2015. Also pictured (from left) Nick Ruhrkraut '17; Mallary St. John '17; and Katie Seymour '17.

Give Kids a Smile has been an invaluable experience in my dental school career, and it has had a great impact on how I will practice in the future,” said Becca Bartlett ’17, who served as the chief organizer for the last two events. Becca and her leadership team plan and publicize the event and secure volunteers, donations, and patients. “It is rewarding to not only be able to touch the lives of so many children and families, but to also have a hand in inspiring future dentists to aid in lowering the barriers to care for children and populations in need.”

Faculty advisor Erin L. Gross, DDS, PhD, MS, an assistant professor in the college’s Division of Pediatric Dentistry, says the Give Kids a Smile event helps students understand there are many families with truly limited means who don’t know where to turn when they need dental care. “We can tell students about children who are lacking care, but it’s something the students understand better when they have the opportunity to talk to these kids, hear their stories, and learn more about their families,” said Dr. Gross.
“They become inspired to break down the barriers that keep young children away from the dentist, and they come to understand that it is our job to take care of the people who need us the most.”

Students understand better when they have the opportunity to talk to these kids, hear their stories, and learn more about their families.

Since Give Kids a Smile started at the college in 2012, faculty-supervised students have provided free, comprehensive dental care to more than 900 underserved children, some of whom have never seen a dentist before coming to the event.

 “One of my favorite parts of Give Kids a Smile is when my classmates or other dental students come up to me after the event and say what an amazing time they had and that they cannot wait for the next event,” said Becca. “Some students have never provided care in this type of charitable setting, and I love to see some of them truly fall in love with service.”