DAVIE Approximately 320 children got a reason to smile thanks to volunteer dental students and faculty members at Nova Southeastern University (NSU).

 Nearly 250 volunteers from NSU’s College of Dental Medicine recently provided limited pro bono dental services valued at more than $110,000 to South Florida children ages 2 to 18 as part of Give Kids a Smile Day (GKAS). This was the largest GKAS event at NSU since it launched the program 12 years ago.

The event drew children from local Boys and Girls Clubs, religious institutions and other organizations throughout the community. The more than 1,000 attendees, including the children and their family members, enjoyed a fun carnival atmosphere with Miami Dolphins linebacker Koa Misi and cheerleaders, Miami Heat dancers and mascot Burnie, face painters, balloon artists, music, Elsa and Anna from Frozen, robots from Transformers, and campus mascots Timmy the Tooth and Razor the Shark.

“It’s unfortunate that for many children, this is the only day they receive oral health care services for the entire year,” said Amanda Buscemi, DMD, co-coordinator of NSU’s GKAS Day and chief pediatric dental resident. “These children have toothaches and/or cavities, which can result in them missing days of school. We are privileged to provide them with a day of dental care. I am truly hopeful that the positive and fun environment we’ve provided leads to the children and their parents being excited to maintain their oral health care throughout the year.”

The U.S. Surgeon General reports that children miss more than 51 million school hours each year to dental-related illness. The Pew Children’s Dental Campaign describes dental care as “the single greatest unmet need for health services among children” in its latest report.

“The dental health of our children has a major economic impact on South Florida and is something that should be a priority to the business and health care community,” said Linda Niessen, dean of the NSU College of Dental Medicine. “Children can’t learn when they suffer from toothache pain and adolescents can’t reach their full potential if they are missing front teeth.”

Give Kids a Smile events take place annually throughout the United States as part of an initiative started by the American Dental Association to improve access to dental care for children. NSU’s GKAS program is entirely student organized and run. In addition, NSU’s Student Government Association provided financial support to the event.

“We are thrilled with the commitment of our student body to help plan and participate in our annual Give Kids a Smile event,” said Keren Castellucci, DMD, co-coordinator of GKAS Day and incoming pediatric dentistry resident. “Working together to improve our community is what it’s all about. This event couldn’t be successful without the wonderful support we are given from our faculty, sponsors, student body and GKAS team.”

NSU faculty members donated their time to this community service event and supervised dental students in this worthwhile project. Sponsors include Henry Schein, American Student Dental Association and the College of Dental Medicine’s Student Government Association.