Saturday, February 8, 2014

College Dental Clinic Helps Kids Smile

Rio Salado College dental student Callista Olivares
 demonstrates how food sticks to teeth. 
Rio Salado College’s Dental Hygiene Clinic and the Arizona Dental Foundation joined forces on February 7 to host a free dental clinic for local elementary school children as part of the national “Give Kids a Smile” initiative.

The American Dental Association launched the Give Kids a Smile program nationally in 2003 as a way for dentists across the country to join with others in their community to provide dental services to underserved children.

The goal of Give Kids a Smile is to increase awareness about the importance of dental hygiene during the month of February, which is National Children’s Dental Health month.

Children from several local elementary schools and organizations participated in the event. Each child received free dental exams, X-rays, cleaning, fluoride, goodie bags, and fun tips on staying healthy.

Services were provided by 42 Rio Salado College dental hygiene and dental assisting students. Instructors and support staff also donated their time and expertise for the event.

“This is a great way for us to give our students a real-life practical learning experience while providing a vital service for the community,” said Holly Harper, faculty chair for dental programs at Rio Salado. “We want to educate children on the benefits of proper oral health care at the earliest age possible. Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease in children, but is almost entirely preventable.”

Harper added that community service is one of the core principles of the Rio Salado College culture.

“The college participates in events and programs that benefit the community all throughout the year,” Harper said. “In fact, we require our dental students to volunteer at least 10 hours during their program of study.”

Students enjoyed the clinic experience as they were able to put practical skills to use and interact with patients.

“Having children in my chair was exciting,” said dental hygiene student Amanda Jacka. “It allowed me to learn even more and I also was able to have fun while teaching kids what everything was. It's rewarding to know I am helping somebody while they help me at the same time with skills I will be able to utilize for the rest of my career.”

The Rio Salado Dental Clinic is open to community members and their families. Children must be 4 years of age or older and are generally seen during the summer semester. Fees range from $25-$35 depending on age.

The clinic is located at 2250 W. 14th Street in Tempe. Clinic hours and appointments vary. All new patients must have a screening visit prior to a dental hygiene appointment. To schedule a screening appointment, call (480) 377-4100. For more information visit

This story can also be found in the February 8 edition of the Tempe Republic.