Kansas City, Sept. 14, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The pandemic cannot sideline TeamSmile, a nonprofit dedicated to providing children with a life-changing dental experience through the power of sports. Since 2007, TeamSmile has served more than 40,000 kids across the U.S. through its traditional programs, where volunteer dentists gather inside giant arenas and stadiums alongside athletes, cheerleaders and mascots to provide free oral health education, dental screenings and dental treatment to underserved children. While COVID-19 has benched these particular programs, the nonprofit found a way to adjust its programming and carry through the organization’s mission.
This past year TeamSmile hosted eight Phase II and II+ programs as well as eight Virtual Oral Health Education Presentations, collectively serving more than 3,000 children across the U.S. and the organization has a full lineup for the last quarter of 2021, heading to Phoenix and Tucson in September and hosting programs with the Minnesota Vikings, Colorado Rockies, Kansas City Royals, Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Rays in October.
“We knew hosting full programs this year was not an option due to COVID-19,” says Kellie Reneau-Jardon, TeamSmile program director, who has worked with the organization for more than 12 years. “But we also knew that we couldn’t sit back and do nothing. We needed to get creative and figure out how we could still help the kiddos who need us. Many schools we work with have responded with huge appreciation for our new Phase II program, thanking us for being creative in helping their students.”
TeamSmile Pandemic Programming
TeamSmile’s Phase II and II+ programs resemble the organization’s winning business model; however, some necessary changes have been made. Now events are held in smaller settings, sometimes directly at schools or with area Boys & Girls Clubs of America, to provide much-needed hands-on treatment with additional safety measures implemented into place. At the Phase II programs, kiddos receive a dental exam, fluoride varnish and/or silver diamine fluoride, oral health education, free dental products and help finding a dental home. At the Phase II+ programs, TeamSmile delivers the above plus brings about 40% of their traditional program equipment and volunteers to conduct scaled-down programs that mimic their traditional ones.
In addition to the Phase II and Phase II+ programs, this year TeamSmile launched Virtual Oral Health Education Presentations in conjunction with the University at Buffalo School of Dental medicine and Meharry Medical College School of Dentistry, where students from across the country actively participate in fun and entertaining activities on the importance of oral health.
“Our dental students and pediatric dental residents have treasured the opportunity to provide meaningful interactive presentations to the children,” says Dr. Meelin Dian Chin Kit-Wells, clinical assistant professor at the University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine. “Most importantly, the children were engaged! We are hopeful that, as a team, we made a difference in their lives by teaching them about their smiles.”
To date, Team Virtual Oral Health Education Presentations have educated kids in five cities and provided hands-on oral health kits to children across the U.S. These oral health kits contain basic necessities that some children have gone without, including a Colgate toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, Purell hand sanitizer and a dental coloring book from their partners at DentaQuest.
“This pandemic has created deep challenges to maintaining access to oral health care for our kids,” says Steven Brady, regional vice president, DentaQuest. “As always, TeamSmile has gone above and beyond in ensuring children and families continue to receive dental care – care that is essential to their overall health. We’re proud to partner with TeamSmile and provide kids across the country with oral health kits.”
The work of TeamSmile would not be possible without help from its many national partners, including DentaQuest, Henry Schein, Colgate, Midmark, Acteon, Henry Schein One, Dentsply Sirona, GOJO, Young Innovations, and the CAPTRUST Community Foundation.
For more information about TeamSmile, or to view upcoming events, visit https://teamsmile.org/.
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Headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri, TeamSmile is the nation’s premier dental advocacy group that partners oral health professionals with professional athletic organizations to provide life-changing dental care to underserved children in surrounding communities. By partnering with professional sports organizations, TeamSmile creates an experience that develops bonds between children’s organizations, oral health professionals, surrounding communities, and the athletes that solidify the message that oral health care is vitally important to long-term health. Through this experience, children receive free oral health care and education, and are taught that the mouth and body are linked for overall health. For more information or news on upcoming events, visit https://teamsmile.org/.