By Zachary Horner, The Sanford Herald
SANFORD - Sitting in a dentist's chair isn't a pleasant experience for most people.
But on Friday (3/17/17), children from all over Lee County came to the Central Carolina Dental Center to receive a free teeth cleaning and more as part of the Give Kids a Smile program, which aims to help underserved children with oral health services.
And by all accounts, those kids did great while receiving much-needed dental care.
"Our event is targeted towards kids that don't have access to dental care," said Dr. Raymond Tseng, who was overseeing the events on Friday. "That may be kids with insurance that can't find a provide who will see them or maybe not have dental insurance or have not had a checkup in a while."
Dr. Tseng, who has private practices in Cary and Cameron, has worked with Central Carolina Community College for multiple years to do this program. He's also a member of the event's national organizing committee and serves as an adjunct professor at UNC-Chapel Hill.
Children who came received exams, a teeth cleaning and sealants. For the first time, they also received X-rays. They also learned about eating healthy, staying active and taking care of their bodies and mouths. Dr. Tseng said it was more like a health fair.
"Hopefully every kid is walking out of here with some sealants on their teeth and also an information card that has whether or not they need restorations or dental work," he said. "We'll be doing that work free of charge for people that came to this event today, and hopefully we'll get those kids on the right track."
Forty-four second-grade students from J. Glenn Edwards Elementary School were among the children to receive services Friday. Mary Hawley Oates, the head nurse for Lee County Schools, said the school system has sent a class from one of the district's elementary schools to the event for a few years. She added that second graders fit well with the program.
"You've got to be old enough to be able to (sit through the cleaning) and you've got enough teeth to do sealants," Oates said. "It's been a great educational opportunity for the kids. The kids are going to walk away having a positive view of dental care."
The program was also an opportunity for CCCC dental students to work on types of teeth they may not normally see. Dr. Tseng and his dental practice assistants worked alongside members of CCCC's dental hygiene and dental assistant programs, as well as some other community volunteers. Some of those students have rotated in Dr. Tseng's private practice over the last few years.
"You see a certain population in dental offices, people that have access and insurance," Dr. Tseng said. "But this really gives them a chance to see what they're not seeing in the dental office. It gives them a really good idea of how good or bad things can get."
Lisa Godfrey, the dean of CCCC's health and human services program, said the program is an important one for the community.
"The care that our students and local dental professionals provide during the Give Kids A Smile event has proven to educate parents and children about the importance of preventive care and good oral health," she said. "It gives our most susceptible children, those without routine dental care, access to dental services all the while providing an important educational opportunity for our students."
The future of the program is bright too. With the expansion of the dental program in coming years after it moves into the new Health Sciences building, yet to be constructed, more children will be able to participate, and thus more of the Lee County community will be served by this event.
Charlotte de Lopez, The Sanford Herald. Yazmin Reynoso (left) and Andrew Hendrick (right) work on the teeth of one individual during the Give Kids a Smile event at the Central Carolina Dental Center.