UNC Chapel Hill free dental clinic focuses on children of essential workers

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WTVD) -- The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Adams School of Dentistry provided a free dental clinic for children Friday. It's part of the American Dental Association's Give Kids a Smile campaign.

The focus was on children of essential workers, as well as children in need.

"These are children of essential workers that might have worked through the COVID pandemic, housekeeping, and maintenance," said Dr. Jessica Lee, Chair of Pediatric and Public Health at the Adams School of Dentistry. "It just kept us running and so we wanted to show our gratitude and helping those kids."

The children range in ages from two to 18 and received dental screenings, examinations and preventative treatments.

Some changes were made due to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as spacing out treatment areas. Children had to have appointments and they couldn't treat as many children as they would have liked, according to Lee.

"I also think that another added impact of the pandemic has been virtual schooling, kids being at home, able to snack all day," said dental student Hannah Smith. "We've seen an increase in things like tooth decay and things like that. So, we're hopeful that this day can remind everyone of the importance of oral health and make a big impact for those children."

"It's a big help for us," mother Nordi Lopez, of Hillsborough, said in Spanish, adding that she lost her job due to the pandemic. She said she had been worried because her daughter's teeth were bothering her. Her nine-year-old daughter, Natalie, got a crown.

"I like the dentist," Natalie said. "When I go to the dentist, I feel happy."

The program is student organized and led, with faculty and staff members participating and supervising.

There were activities for the kids, so they could learn about how oral health is connected to overall health.

The clinic is usually held the first Friday of February.
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