Most trips to the dentist don’t include a live DJ or meeting a Detroit Lions football player, but for some Detroit students, that’s exactly what happened.
In the Brenda Scott Academy gymnasium on Friday, approximately 300 students at the school received free dental screening and care to the sound of today’s top hits. Children were offered glitter tattoos, face painting and for a lucky group, the chance to meet Lions safety Kerby Joseph and tight end Derrick Deese, Jr.
The event, organized by national nonprofit, Team Smile, in conjunction with the Delta Dental Foundation, aimed to combine sports and fun while demystifying dentistry. The event offered free dental care to all interested students with parental permission, regardless of financial background.
“By using sports, we want to make it cool,” said John Mccarthy, the executive director of Team Smile, “we want to take the fear out of it.”
For 6-year-old Arian Ware, the event did just that. “I loved going over there and getting the stuff in my mouth,” she said, pointing to a row of dental hygienists before excitedly doing a backbend, “it was the best!”
According to Brenda Scott Academy Principal Willie Brewster, the event was part of the school’s overarching campaign to encourage healthy habits.
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“Because of the pandemic, a lot of us — adults as well — missed the opportunity to take care of health,” Brewster sad, “so whether this is their first time, or their first time since the pandemic [receiving dental care], this opportunity has been really cool.”
While most children seemed to enjoy the event, Dr. Jehan Wakeem, president of the Detroit District Dental Society, and one of the event’s volunteer dentists, was disheartened to see some students come in suffering.
“Kids come in and they’re hurting, they’ve been hurting for a long time. I look to see what the problem is and the tooth is completely decayed,” she told the Free Press, “he tooth has to be removed… we can’t even fix it.”
Most cases like this are preventable, Wakeem said, by brushing twice a day, reducing sugar intake and scheduling regular dentist appointments to maintain oral health.
For assistance with dental care, Michigan residents can visit smilehelpnow.org to find dental clinics that offer payment on a sliding scale and accept Medicaid.