Howard University College of Dentistry Hosts National Kick-off Event for Give Kids A Smile Program

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This program aims to educate and provide care for underserved children across the United States, and its annual kickoff event will take place at Howard University College of Dentistry.

Howard University College of Dentistry Hosts National Kick-off Event for Give Kids A Smile Program. Image credit: © Howard University

Howard University College of Dentistry Hosts National Kick-off Event for Give Kids A Smile Program. Image credit: © Howard University

In a bid to address the ongoing challenges underserved families face in accessing dental care, the American Dental Association Foundation's Give Kids A Smile (GKAS) program commenced its national initiative at Howard University College of Dentistry on February 1 and 2, 2024. This marks the 22nd year of GKAS, which brings together dental professionals nationwide to provide free dental services to underserved children while shedding light on the difficulties these families encounter in affording dental care.

The national kick-off event, held annually during National Children's Dental Health Month, is a testament to the program's dedication to reaching the most vulnerable communities., according to a press release from Howard University. Over the years, GKAS has mobilized thousands of volunteers to offer free oral health education and services to underserved children throughout the United States.

The goal of Give Kids A Smile extends beyond immediate care; it aims to establish continuity of care by finding dental homes for these families. The success of GKAS is made possible through the support of national sponsors, Henry Schein and Colgate. These sponsors provide education and product solutions, enabling GKAS events to take place at various locations, including schools, universities, health centers, and private dental practices.

Dean Andrea D. Jackson, DDS, expressed Howard University's enthusiasm for leading this year's initiative, stating, "Each year, Give Kids A Smile provides a powerful platform for us to share knowledge, teach prevention, and provide treatment to vulnerable children – giving them something to smile about."

LaToya M. Barham, DDS, associate professor and chair of the Department of Pediatric Dentistry, highlighted that this year's event at Howard University will focus on preventive care and oral health literacy. The college anticipates serving 100 children from 4 local schools in the District of Columbia.

Michele Tulak-Gorecki, DDS, chair of the American Dental Association Foundation, recognized the essential role of the nearly 27,000 dental professionals volunteering each year, along with the steadfast support from sponsors Henry Schein and Colgate. “What began as a grassroots effort 23 years ago in St. Louis [Missouri] has become a national public private collaboration that ensures access to quality oral health care or all children.” Dr Tulak-Gorecki said in the press release.

As exclusive product sponsor since the program's inception, Jennifer Kim Field, Chief Sustainability Officer with Henry Schein, Inc., emphasized their commitment to expanding access to care and enhancing oral health literacy for underserved children.

Colgate, the exclusive national sponsor of essential health and hygiene products since 2007, is equally committed to advancing health equity through its Bright Smiles, Bright Futures initiative. Dawna Michelle Fields, Senior Director at Colgate, expressed pride in supporting GKAS and promoting oral health literacy for children's overall well-being in the press release. “Colgate-Palmolive is proud to be a long-term supportor of the Give Kids a Smile program and promote oral health literacy, which is foundational for children’s overall health and well-being.”

The Give Kids A Smile program is said to align with Colgate's broader global social impact efforts, including the KnowYourOQ.com initiative, designed to improve oral health literacy while improving oral health outcomes.

Howard University College of Dentistry, the nation's fifth oldest dental school and one of two Historically Black College University dental schools, takes pride in its role as the sole dental college in the District of Columbia. The college has trained more African-American dentists than any other dental school in the United States, per the press release.

For more information about the ADA Foundation's Give Kids A Smile program, visit the website here.

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