This summer, I had the privilege of being the KidSMILES outreach intern. KidSMILES is a non-profit pediatric dental clinic that does not accept dental insurance and only charges $20 a visit. Through this organization, it was my responsibility to contact schools and set up a time for volunteers to come talk to the children and educate them about dental hygiene through a series of interactive games.
Prior to beginning this STEP signature project, I was not aware of the honest impact dentistry can make in the lives of others. Growing up, I was extremely privileged and going to the dental was a regular routine for me. Unfortunately, through this internship I quickly learned that is not the case for all. This summer I had the opportunity to improve the access to care issue in the dental field.
Dental hygiene knowledge is not well known throughout the general public, so it is very important to me to teach children young proper dental hygiene to prevent them from expensive procedures in the future. I know most know it is important to floss, but are not fully aware of the negative reproductions they can face in their mouth if they do not do so. Through a series of interactive games children were taught proper brushing, flossing, and nutrition to in order to prevent the painful mouth pain they can experience in the future if proper techniques are not performed. After the presentation, we gave the children a goody bag filled with a toothbrush, toothpaste, timer, and information regarding our dental clinic.
I would always leave the outreach events with an overwhelming feeling of satisfaction. I know I am recruiting patients for our dental clinic that will help our clinic excel as well as improving the lives of these children. My hope is these are skills these kids will practice now which they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. I have become very aware of the lack of dental knowledge in the general public. Through this internship, I have single handedly been able to improve that problem.
Since I began this internship, KidSMILES has received a grant that allowed us to hire a part-time dentist. This is extremely exciting because we now have 2 set days in the clinic, as opposed to relying on various dentists to volunteer a handful of times throughout the year. When I was doing outreach events in the school year, I would send kids home with a flyer about our clinic to inform the parents and the parents would soon find out there is a long waitlist to get into the clinic. Now that there is a part-time dentist, I can confidently give the flyer to the children knowing they will be able to see a dentist in the very near future at our clinic without a problem.
This internship has completely changed the way I view dentistry. I just applied to dental school, and I want to one day open my own practice. As a dentist at my own practice, I am limited to only helping those that can afford to come to your practice and that is very frustrating to me. After working with KidSMILES, I know when I am a dentist I will dedicate one day a week to a nonprofit dental clinic to help those that do not have dental insurance and cannot afford to go to the dentist on their own. I will also continue to educate the public on dental hygiene and the negative effects that can result if proper dental hygiene is not performed. Together, this can not only change the lives of so many individuals, but will change the future of dentistry.