NC Dental Clinic welcomes local children as part of Shiny Smiles program

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Niagara College dental students helped brighten the smiles of local elementary school children in need of treatment this month as part of the newly relaunched Shiny Smiles program on Friday, April 6.

The Shiny Smiles program provides free dental treatment to children with limited or no access to dental care. The initiative is a collaboration between Niagara College, Niagara Region Public Health, as well as community dentists, local school boards, and the Welland Neighbourhood Project.

“The innovative Shiny Smiles program demonstrates the collective impact of community partnerships on health equity by improving the oral health of children who need it most,” said Gloria Morris, dental program manager for Niagara Region Public Health. “Niagara College is committed to giving back to the community by running the Shiny Smiles clinics and supporting the work of all the stakeholders.”

“We are proud to continue our participation in this wonderful program that helps improve dental health for children in our community,” said Carolyn Triemstra, dean of Community and Health Studies at Niagara College.  “Our students will have a chance to make a real difference for local families and gain valuable experience in the process.”

After a pre-screening by Niagara Region Public Health, 28 students from four Welland elementary schools –including Plymouth, Princess Elizabeth, St. Mary’s and Diamond Trail – were identified as in need of restorative dental work. On April 6, they were bussed to the College’s Welland Campus where they received treatment at the NC Dental Clinic. Working alongside hygienists from Public Health, students from Niagara College’s  Dental Hygiene, Dental Assisting, Dental Office Administration programs assisted with providing services including  x-rays, scaling, polish, fluoride, sealants, fillings and extractions.

“It was beneficial for our students to collaborate with Niagara Region Public Health professionals and be able to observe and work alongside them,” said NC’s dental program manager Leeza Kristalyn. “The Shiny Smiles program also provides an opportunity for our students to work with squirmy children that require a different chair-side manner than adults. Many of these children have never visited a dentist’s office before and many are faced with dental anxiety.”

The Shiny Smiles program was launched in 2007, to help reduce the disparities between low- and high-income families when it comes to oral health by offering access to needed dental care for elementary school students in priority neighbourhoods. The program aims to reduce barriers to needed care for children whose parents who may not have available funds or health benefits to cover the cost of dental services, or the access to transportation, the capacity to seek treatment or the flexibility of losing time from work to take their children to their appointment.

While the future of the program was uncertain in recent years due to the evolving need of the community, a revamped Shiny Smiles program re-launched last year which revisited the roles of community partners resulting in an enhanced and strengthened program.

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