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Video: Smiles abound during Dental Mission Week

Published on Monday, February 12, 2018

Nearly 2,000 Mississippi residents received free dental care at the University of Mississippi School of Dentistry’s second annual Dental Mission Week Feb. 5-10. The total nearly doubled the number served at last year’s inaugural event.

The halls of the school bustled with activity from morning to evening as faculty, students, staff and volunteers saw a record number of patients throughout the week – 1,826 patients who received 4,135 dental procedures worth an estimated $1.05 million in uncompensated care.

“The dental and dental hygiene students had the opportunity to provide high quality dental care to a large contingent of Mississippians who could not otherwise afford it,” said Dr. David Felton, professor of care planning and restorative dentistry sciences and dean of the school. “While the patients benefitted greatly, our students got to see, first hand, how ‘giving back’ to those less fortunate can have a dramatic impact on someone’s life.”

Dental Mission Week is a joint effort involving volunteers from the Schools of Dentistry, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Related Professions and Medicine as well as staff from local private dental practices.

State Sen.  Hillman Frazier, center, looks on as Jolie Nguyen, left, a fourth-year dental student, and Scarlett Woods, a second-year dental student, treat Khloe Bailey, a Johnson Elementary School student.
State Sen. Hillman Frazier, center, is a familiar face at the School of Dentistry.

Jump-starting the week was Give Kids A Smile Day on Monday, Feb. 5. More than 500 students from three local elementary schools and the Stewpot After-School Program received dental care – including cleanings, fluoride treatments and sealants – valued at $117,465.

Historically, GKAS day has been held on Friday, but the school shifted the day to Monday to allow parents an opportunity to bring children back for free follow-up care during Dental Mission Week.

Wilkedria Davis, a teacher at Johnson Elementary School, said that for many of the students, especially those who do not have a regular dentist, this is the first time having their teeth cleaned.

State Sen. Hillman Frazier visited the dental school for the event, as has been his tradition for years.

“It’s good to have a chance to reach those who have not had access to dental care,” Frazier said. “I enjoy visiting the dental school, seeing the students walk in with their frowns, very nervous, and walk out with a smile.”

Frazier said he also enjoys getting to see the dental students’ progress each year, from first year to fourth, as they have the opportunity to get hands-on experience. He takes this time to talk with faculty and staff, as well, to learn about the needs of the state’s only dental school. 

Donna Edwards, dental assistant, and Curtis Porter, U.S. Army veteran, are all smiles after his dental visit Thursday.
Donna Edwards, dental assistant, and Curtis Porter, U.S. Army veteran, are all smiles after his dental visit.

On Feb. 8, the school teamed with the G.V. (Sonny) Montgomery VA Medical Center to provide care for 265 veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces, many of whom do not qualify for dental benefits.

“Dental benefits are some of the most restricted by law, so there are a lot of veterans who are eligible for general medical care but not dental care,” Dr. David Walker, director of the VA Medical Center, said. “Today is a gift for veterans.”

“This was a huge undertaking for the school and our colleagues, but it was a win-win effort for all,” Felton said. “We’re already working on planning for the 2019 Dental Mission Week activities and hope to continue this effort for many years to come.”

View a photo gallery from 2018 Dental Mission Week.