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Feb. 9, 2004

ULM's Dental Hygiene and Area Dentists team Up to "Give Kids a Smile"

The dental hygiene department at the University of Louisiana at Monroe kept busy on Friday, Feb. 6. They hosted and participated in the 2nd annual "Give Kids A Smile!" (GKAS), day, a program to help with the dental health of children in need.

GKAS is sponsored by the American Dental Association, and nation-wide more than 35,000 dentists participated at over 2,100 sites. In northeast Louisiana, 20 area dentists and dental specialists teamed with ULM's dental hygiene department to offer free dental services.

Nearly 60 children from the local Boys and Girls Club, the YWCA shelter, and the West Monroe Community Center came to the clinic. Before the children went in, they watched movies in the lobby. When called, they went in and a ULM dental hygiene student cleaned their teeth, took x-rays, and made assessments. The students instructed each child on the proper way to care for teeth, giving them a Crest Spinbrush and toothpaste. A dentist checked over the child to make a diagnosis of any problems noted by the student, and if needed, scheduled a follow-up appointment for further treatment.

GKAS also helps the dental hygiene students get a "real world" experience. Normally the students see a patient over three visits-assessing the first time, and cleaning and giving a fluoride treatment on the second and third visits. "Today, they were coming one right after another, like a real office," said Angela Gatten, a Shreveport senior. "This is the only facility in the area where this type of thing can be done," said Dr. Ricky Caples, "and ULM is very gracious to allow their facilities to be used."

Hosting the program helped the dental hygiene students not only learn more, but helped them gain a sense of community. "Everyone has an opportunity to help make a difference in today's world. I'm grateful to have the opportunity to use my skill to make a difference in the lives of this city's children," said Dr. Caples. "It was great. Some of them would come in kind of scared or shy. We would finish and they would walk out with a smile," said Gatten.

Julia Cagle, program coordinator for the West Monroe Community Center said that the parents of the children were happy and appreciative for the program. "Many of the parents don't have insurance. Even for those who do-some can't afford the co-pay, or can't afford to take the time off work to take their child to the dentist. Because of this program, we can take them. I know a few kids who may not hide anymore, because now they can smile."

The dental hygiene clinic at ULM is open to the public Monday through Thursday.

For more information, contact the dental hygiene department at 342-1621.

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