February 2019 – Members of the Stony Brook School of Dental Medicine community volunteered at back-to-back Give Kids A Smile events in Nassau and Suffolk Counties in support of expanding access to oral health care for local children.
Stony Brook School of Dental Medicine students and faculty kicked off National Children’s Dental Health month by attending Give Kids A Smile events organized by local dental organizations, Nassau County Dental Society and Suffolk County Dental Society. Children that attended from Long Island communities were provided with free dental screenings, cleanings, and fluoride treatments.
The Give Kids A Smile program, launched nationally by the American Dental Association in 2003, has helped to bring more than 5.5 million underserved children free oral health services. Each year, Stony Brook School of Dental Medicine supports the two February events held locally in addition to leading its own back-to-school event held in August in its Dental Care Center.
“I consider myself unbelievably lucky to have the opportunity to participate in three Give Kids A Smile events annually,” said student Erin Down. “Though each event is just one day, the lasting impact of helping a child find a dental home is the true success of these missions.” Erin, who attended the Nassau County Dental Society’s event at the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Nassau County, served alongside over 300 volunteers to provide care to over 900 children.
In reflecting on Give Kids A Smile events, student Kristen Forlano considers her participation to be an important reminder of why she chose to pursue dentistry as her career path. According to Kristen, it is an opportunity to provide children with a lasting impression of the importance of oral health through education.
The Suffolk County Dental Society’s Give Kids A Smile event took place at the Long Island Aquarium of Riverhead and welcomed children from local communities to receive free oral health care services, as well as to participate in a fun day of coloring stations, puppet shows and face painting.
Dr. Dimitrios Kilimitzoglou, Clinical Associate Professor of Stony Brook School of Dental Medicine, described the event as the pinnacle of philanthropy, education and community outreach. “It’s a win-win for everyone involved: our dental students, the patients that we treat, and all of the volunteers who donate their skills and time.”
Dr. Kilimitzoglou is the Immediate Past President of the Suffolk County Dental Society and has seen the Riverhead event grow from dozens of patients to hundreds since its inception eight years ago thanks, in large part, to the efforts of volunteers such as the students and faculty of Stony Brook School of Dental Medicine. “It is nothing short of amazing,” said Dr. Kilimitzoglou.
“We are happy to support both the Nassau and Suffolk County Dental Societies’ Give Kids A Smile days each year,” said Dr. Rhona Sherwin, Director of Pediatric Outreach and Clinical Professor of Stony Brook School of Dental Medicine. “An integral part of our mission is to provide accessible oral health care to the local community, and these experiences provide a meaningful opportunity to do so.”