JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA –
Serving active duty service members is a responsibility Airmen working at the 628th Aerospace Medicine Squadron Deily Dental Clinic execute on a daily basis. When the opportunity arose to give back to U.S. military dependents through the Give Kids A Smile campaign, many Airmen in the unit saw it as a chance to pay it forward to the families supporting those who serve.
Joint Base Charleston’s Give Kids A Smile event kicked off March 17, the second time the 628th AMDS participated in the annual campaign. During the event, dependent children from two to 12 years old were offered free dental services including exams and preventative education.
“I think it’s great for us to get this opportunity because we have the privilege of serving the people who serve us and the entire country,” said Capt. Jeffrey Yee, 628th AMDS general dentist. “It’s great to meet kids, interact with them and see their smiles.”
The American Dental Association launched the Give Kids A Smile program in 2003 and it provides a wide range of equipment to the various dental organizations participating in the campaign.
“The ADA finds volunteers to donate all of these supplies, so when the rubber actually meets the road, the only resources we’re donating are our time and manpower,” Yee said. “All of our required disposable supplies like gloves, masks, toothbrushes, and toothpaste… supplies we would have had to take out of our supply room are donated. All we have to use is our sterilized equipment which we can continue to reuse.”
U.S. Air Force Maj. Scott King, 628th Medical Group bioenvironmental engineering flight commander, took his daughter Olivia, 3 years old, to the event and said events like these are beneficial to military families.
“Programs like this are great because they hone in on a target audience, kids, and subject, dental hygiene, which can be easily overlooked,” King said. “For instance, I think it’s easy as a parent to forget about taking your child to the dentist. I would guess that a lot of folks don’t even carry dental insurance on their young children because the need for doctor visits is pretty infrequent.”
Aside from King’s daughter getting medical care, he said he just enjoyed spending some time with his daughter in a different kind of atmosphere.
“This was a fun event because I got to spend time with her and had a chance to watch her interact with the staff and grow up a little,” King said. “The dental staff couldn’t have been kinder to us.”
U.S. Air Force Maj. Royden Jones, 628th AMDS general dentist, said the interaction between the dental staff and the younger patients during the event are important for future exams.
“Because we have the time to do it and we’re not rushed, I think it’s a lot better for the kids to be able to realize going to the dentist isn’t a scary experience,” Jones said. “It can be fun and it can be a good experience. My philosophy is to treat everyone the same no matter who comes in and sits in that dental chair. I want them to know they are getting the best treatment possible regardless of where they’re coming from.”
The 628th AMDS cared for 40 military dependent children during the Give Kids A Smile campaign. However, they still hope to make improvements for their third campaign next year.
“We’d love to see this program continue to grow,” Yee said. “As we continue to refine it and iron out the kinks, there’s certainly room for us to see more patients and improve our efficiency. I would love to see this progress and continue to reach a greater number of families.”