By Michelle Manchir
Give kids a thumbs up: Dr. Jonathan Zsambeky, right, Lori Pinion, dental hygienist, and Adilene, center, smile following a treatment during the Give Kids A Smile event in Cabarrus County, N.C. on March 4.
When Tracy Ginder walks into dental offices across Cabarrus County in central North Carolina, she’s often greeted with a wave of hellos and familiar smiles.
That’s because Ms. Ginder, for the last 10 years, has coordinated the Give Kids A Smile event there. Under her watch, thousands of youngsters here have accessed dental care and education they may not have received otherwise.
This year, Ms. Ginder had some newly acquired expertise when it came to coordinating the event. That’s because she was one of 10 GKAS Ambassadors who in October participated in the ADA Foundation Give Kids A Smile Community Leadership Development Institute in St. Louis.
Ambassadors are chosen from state and local dental societies and community-based organizations to learn best practices for initiating, expanding and enhancing a Give Kids A Smile program, in part by attending and helping facilitate one of the country’s largest GKAS events in St. Louis. The ADA Foundation will post the application for the 2016 GKAS Institute April 4 on ADAFoundation.org. The application deadline is May 13.
Here are three of the 2015 ambassadors’ stories.
Tracy Ginder — Cabarrus County, North Carolina
This year, 12 dental offices across Cabarrus County, North Carolina participated in a March 4 Give Kids A Smile event, treating more than 200 underserved kids. Patients received education, cleanings, treatment and in most cases, an invitation to return for future cleanings and treatment when necessary.
Thanks to Ms. Ginder’s GKAS Institute experience, the Cabarrus County program expanded this year to include “Tiny Smiles” — inviting children ages 0 to 5 to see a dentist for the first time. She estimates 40 children in this age group saw dentists this year.
Ms. Ginder also organized a pilot program in which the Cabarrus Health Alliance donated books so children in some of the offices would receive a book on their way out the door — in addition to a goody bag that included toothpaste and a toothbrush.
No waiting for a smile: Erica Pankey, above, a dental assistant with the Cabarrus Health Alliance, sits with Juan, 6, as he awaits treatment at the March 4 Give Kids A Smile event in North Carolina.
Ms. Ginder, a marketing coordinator at the Cabarrus County Health Alliance, said she took the reins of the GKAS program when the county’s dental task force was eliminated a few years ago. If she hadn’t stepped up, she worried the program would cease in the county.
“I couldn’t let that happen,” Ms. Ginder said. “As a parent I know what it’s like when your child needs something. I hear the relief in parents’ voices when they call us and make a dental appointment. It’s one more concern they can check off their list.”
Ms. Ginder said she gleaned new information and ideas – and made new friends and contacts – thanks to attending the Institute.
“If I had a problem, someone else there had a solution,” she said.
In Cabarrus County, the Cabarrus Health Alliance that employs Ms. Ginder set up a phone bank with bilingual operators so the county’s growing Spanish-speaking population could make appointments. A local nonprofit, Cabarrus Partnership for Children, pitched in for support – thanks in part to Ms. Ginder’s networking.
“We are fortunate in this county to have a lot of willing collaborators,” she said.
Dr. Tim Kinnard — Oklahoma City
Dr. Tim Kinnard attributes the Oklahoma City Indian Clinic’s record GKAS year to his participation in the GKAS Institute. The clinic, which serves Native American patients, provided more than 50 children with screenings, sealants, radiographs, fluoride treatments and restorations during its Feb. 5 event.
Meeting dentists and others at the Institute in October who had experience streamlining their GKAS programs helped Dr. Kinnard and his team make their event more efficient, he said.
“The Institute helped us find ideas on how to be efficient in evaluating a patient to provide for them a range of treatment – from getting their teeth cleaned to following up right away with any other needs,” he said.
Dr. Kinnard and his team also recruited volunteers from other parts of the clinic to pitch in during the GKAS event, including staff from maintenance and reception who volunteered to offer face painting.
“The positive effects of having a wealth of volunteers is something else that I gathered from the ambassador program,” Dr. Kinnard said.
Dr. Kinnard and his group treated many children who “might not be able to get this type of dental treatment and education anywhere else.”
The Indian Health Service has established that oral health disparities exist among American Indian and Alaskan Native preschool children, and that significant oral health disparities exist among Indian Health Service areas.
Dr. Kinnard said the clinic has always worked to make itself culturally relevant and comfortable place for its target patients so that they are motivated to return for follow-up care.
“A lot of these kids are at risk and there is misinformation about dentistry out there,” Dr. Kinnard said. “Getting kids coming in regularly is so important.”
Dr. Stephen Gasparovich — Biloxi, Mississippi
The days when the dental team at the 81st Dental Squadron at Keesler Air Force Base scrambled to fill 40 open appointment spots during its Give Kids A Smile Event are over.
That’s in part because Dr. Stephen Gasparovich, Lieutenant Colonel and a Support Flight Commander, attended the October Give Kids A Smile Institute.
“At the Institute, I learned skills to form partnerships with medical specialties and key civilian groups on the base,” he said, which helped get more patients scheduled for treatment.
Tiny Smiles: a child of Biloxi, Miss. Give Kids A Smile event on Feb. 10 engages in dental hygiene education with a toy.
During the event Feb. 10, the group doubled the number of participating children from last year, providing treatment that ranged from well-baby exams to extractions for 120 children. Also different this year was “100 percent staff participation” on the behalf of the dental squadron, Dr. Gasporavich said.
“The Institute helped me present a clear vision of GKAS event objectives to leadership. That support allowed us to expand the event and increase the outreach to more children,” he said.
Many of the children treated at Keesler were also rescheduled for follow-up care in the dental clinic. Dr. Gasparovich’s team also implemented a Tiny Smiles component to the event this year – allocating a specific location for these young children separate from the older kids.
Dr. Gasparovich said he foresees the GKAS event at the air force base continuing to grow and build momentum.
“In the past, I took on most of the responsibilities myself. Delegating the tasks allowed more individuals to participate in the planning process. Hopefully this will translate into a broader perspective and understanding of the event by fellow committee members, and they will feel more comfortable with future GKAS leadership roles,” he said.