Nearly 150 kids from the local community came to Carolina for free dental care and education during the national kickoff of Give Kids a Smile. Many kids are scared of going to the dentist, but when you add in a dance party, a therapy dog and a Tooth Fairy in a big pink gown, the situation becomes a lot more palatable.

That’s the experience the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Dentistry provided to nearly 150 kids from the community during the national kickoff of Give Kids A Smile on Friday. Dental school students and faculty members pitched in to create a fun and memorable experience for the kids, providing nearly $8,000 of free dental screenings and cleanings.

Danielle Burgess, a third-year dental student at Carolina, said she hoped the event would help the kids get comfortable with the idea of going to the dentist and practicing healthy habits.

“If we teach these children the importance of dental hygiene, flossing, brushing, I think it’s a habit they’ll build into their lifestyle and take with them into adulthood,” she said. “Sometimes going to the dentist gets a bad rap, but if we can change their outlook of dentistry early on, I think it will change their lives.”

Burgess was one of more than 160 students who volunteered at the event, which is sponsored annually by the American Dental Association Foundation. Some students provided cleanings and cavity fillings, while others helped kids practice brushing teeth on denture-clad stuffed animals, introduced them to the school’s resident therapy dog GRAYSON or dressed up in party hats and costumes.

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Originally published Feb. 1, 2019.