Anchorage

‘When I grow up, I wanna be a dentist just like you!’: Kids across Anchorage receive free dental services

Stuffed animals — each fitted with a pair of shiny fake teeth — accompanied children as University of Alaska Anchorage dental students provided cleanings, X-rays and exams. “PawPatrol,” “Frozen” and Pokémon decals decorated the clear dividers between each exam room, and songs from “The Little Mermaid” blared overhead.

UAA’s Children’s Day Dental Clinic, hosted by the School of Allied Health’s dental hygiene program, gave 11 UAA dental students the opportunity to provide free services to Anchorage youths.

The event was held Friday and provided dental services for children up to 18 years old.

“When I grow up, I wanna be a dentist just like you!” 6-year-old Leilani Madrid said to Dr. Evelyn Haley, a dental program faculty member.

While waiting to get her teeth cleaned, Leilani used a small dental inspection mirror to investigate the pair of fake teeth fitted into the clinic’s stuffed animal fish that she named Tiggy.

“I did such a good job with my pictures,” Leilani said of her X-rays. “I didn’t need my mom... and baby brother’s help.”

The event gives students a chance to work on meeting degree requirements while gaining experience in a clinical setting. It also helps educate the public and provide children with a positive experience, said Carri Shamburger, dental hygiene program director.

Four-year-old Lia Barela was reluctant to leave after her appointment. Wearing a pink bracelet that dental program student Ronie Marc Salvador picked out for her from a toy box in the waiting room and clutching a small toy in the shape of a tooth, Lia begged to stay so she could hang out with her friends.

Junior Marina Pack said it was after “a lot of soul searching” that she found her way into UAA’s dental hygiene program.

“I really wanted to help people,” she said. “This is where I landed and I’m so sure it’s right for me.”

Being part of Friday’s event was the icing on the cake.

“There’s just so much happiness,” she said. Her hair was tucked neatly behind a handmade head covering decorated with bright red apples. “It’s really great to see this and get this experience.”

Senior Shayna McGinty –– who wore fairy wings and a white tutu –– carried her tooth fairy wand around as she interacted with children during the education portion of the event. A young girl even lowered her mask to show McGinty her missing tooth.

“It, like, melted my heart,” she said.

Shamburger said the Children’s Day Dental Clinic will be held again next year around the same time of year. Low-cost dental appointments with UAA students are also available to the public from September through April. For more information, visit the School of Allied Health’s website.

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