We get to see a lot of faces in our work as pediatric dentists, but how often
can we pull back to see the bigger picture?
Working as a volunteer at the first Healthy Smiles, Healthy Children Dental
Home Day in Orlando last May, I was privileged to see more than 40 American
Academy of Pediatric Dentistry members and affiliates help provide dental care
for 91 homeless children. We spent the day at the Orange Blossom Family Health
Center on Orlando's northwest side.
My job in reception/intake allowed me to see children and their families from
a whole new perspective. Instead of working in the exam room, I spent a full day
mingling with patients, siblings and parents in the waiting area. Many of these
kids hadn't been to a dentist in years.
Like many service projects, Dental Home Day was controlled chaos at times.
Back-ups in X-ray, scrambles for needed supplies, searches for an errant child, and
coping with classic Florida heat and humidity all made for, at times, a challenging
It is the faces, however, that stay with me.
Some peered over the top of the registration table, others were buried in mom's
shoulder, and several looked excited to be there. There were the faces of parents -
some sheepish because their child had never been to the dentist, while others were
relieved their child was no longer in pain.
Relieving a child's pain and discomfort was a recurring theme among Dental
Home Day parents. Tony Lewis and Heather Greene, whose son Caleb had a supernumerary
tooth that was extracted during his Dental Home Day visit, found the
clinic by chance.
"We were driving by and we saw the sign saying they were
doing dental work for children. My son had an extra tooth
growing in front and I've been trying for three months to find
someone to take care of it," said Caleb's mom.
Caleb and the other 90 Dental Home Day patients now have
a Dental Home at Orange Blossom for the next 12 months thanks
to the $45,000 in total grants from HSHC. I'm grateful to Sunstar
Americas, Inc., who is sponsoring Dental Home Day through May
2016, and I'm grateful to all of the HSHC donors and volunteers
who make all of our access to care work possible.
But, most of all, I'm grateful to the parents who take the time
to bring their children to the dentist - whether as part of Dental
Home Day or any other day of the week.
The last faces of the day were the faces of
the volunteers who registered contentment,
exhilaration, as well as exhaustion, as we rode
the coach bus back to the AAPD Annual
Session site. Everyone was reflecting on the
day, telling stories of this child or that child.
It was a wonderful drive back to the hotel.
Whether they were happy with our care
or just happy that it was over, we know we
made a difference in the lives of these children
and their families. I can't wait to see
the children's faces in Boston in 2014.