As many as 300 children from Fresno and Central unified school districts will receive free dental services as TeamSmile returns to Fresno State from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 24, at Fresno State’s South Gym.
This is the eighth year Fresno State has teamed up with TeamSmile to provide area children with free oral care and educate them on proper dental hygiene. For many of these children, selected by the school districts, this event will be the first time they will receive dental treatment.
“During the past seven years, over 700 children have received more than $900,000 worth of free dental treatment,” said Dr. Scott Sailor, chair in the Department of Kinesiology and one of the event organizers. “Through this experience, children receive free oral health education, screening, treatment and are taught that the mouth and body are linked for overall health. This program provides a much-needed service in our community.”
Children are treated for cleanings, cavities, root canals and tooth extractions. All children will receive a full dental examination, including preventative education on oral hygiene and dietary instructions.
Fresno County ranks among the top five U.S. regions with the highest percentage of residents living below the poverty line, and it is estimated that low-income children are two times as likely to suffer from tooth decay.
“TeamSmile is important because it provides dental care to kids who need it,” said Dr. Xavier Gutierrez, team dentist for Fresno State athletics. “The U.S. Surgeon General’s report stated that dental decay is the most chronic disease in childhood. Over 52 million school hours are lost per year due to dental pain. Keeping our children’s teeth healthy allows them to stay in school.”
Gutierrez is among the many dental professionals that will participate in Saturday’s event. Over 20 dentists, 15 dental hygienists and about 40 dental assisting students will lend their services, with a majority coming from the Fresno-Madera Dental Society and Henry Schein Dental. Students from Fresno State’s Pre-Dental Club and dental hygiene students from Reedley College will return as volunteers.
Bringing TeamSmile to Fresno State each year costs organizers about $11,000. Funding for the event comes from various private donations, along with proceeds from an annual community softball tournament held at Fresno State earlier this year. The Fresno-Madera Dental Society donated $2,000 to fund the event. As an added bonus, each participant receives tickets to attend a Fresno State football game.
TeamSmile was originated in 2006 by Dr. Bill Busch, director of the non-profit organization, which connects kids with professional sports teams, local dentists, dental organizations, dental schools and volunteers to help promote the importance of dental care to those who otherwise would not have access to services.
Mike Stovall, a former Bulldogs football offensive lineman, was responsible for bringing the national program to Fresno State in 2007 after realizing the need for oral health care in the Valley. He worked closely with Gutierrez to get the program started. The University was the first NCAA school to host the program on a college campus, and is one of only a few universities in the U.S. that participates.
For years, student-athletes and students from various majors, have volunteered at this all-day event. This year, over 30 students have registered to volunteer to help with check-in, chaperoning and hosting fun activities. Most of all, the students provide a positive presence for the kids, some of whom may be a little uneasy about their first time receiving dental services.
“We feel this is a great way to give back to our community and get our students involved,” Sailor said. “Besides the free dental care received, it is a great opportunity for the kids to meet college students and be on a college campus. It might be something that inspires them to pursue college themselves.”
For more information, contact Kellie Reneau at 816.809.6220 or Scott Sailor at 559.278.2543.