July-August 2014
Volume 93 - Number 4

Find Your Way by the Star of the North

Development of a National TMJ Implant Registry and Repository - NICDR's TIRR

The Thought That Counts

Golden: Recognizing the MDA's 25-Year Members and Retirees

Minnesota News

Give Kids a Smile 2008

Give Kids a Smile revs up for 2008

For the past five years, a group of about 6,000 Minnesota children — some new, some now familiar faces — benefit from their interactions with Give Kids a Smile volunteers in February. Whether the children receive their first dental exam or get a painful problem resolved, the volunteers can bet that each child is better off for the experience. Exhausted as they may be, the 2,000 volunteers across the state are better off, as well. And the benefit reaches throughout the dental profession.

“There is a very significant value of putting on this program,” said Richard Diercks, MDA Executive Director. From the perspective of the Association, Give Kids a Smile helps achieve goals of raising public awareness about the importance of dental health, improving influence with state legislators and serving the underprivileged.

But another benefit is just as important: “One of the most tangible benefits is the good feeling it generates in the dental offices that participate. It’s a very different, vibrant and rewarding experience for the entire office,” said Diercks.

Here are some highlights of the value the program brings:

Media coverage

Give Kids a Smile generates extensive news coverage throughout the state. Last year, the MDA tracked news coverage of the event in the following:

• 65 metro-area newspapers, including the Star Tribune and Pioneer Press.

• 11 metro-area broadcast outlets, including KARE 11, WCCO-TV and radio, KSTP, and MPR.

• 108 outstate newspapers

• 8 outstate broadcast outlets, including radio and TV stations in Duluth, Mankato, Rochester and Fergus Falls, as well as statewide radio news services such as Minnesota News Network.

“It’s a rare opportunity where the story is shaped by the media but in a completely positive way,” said MDA’s longtime media consultant Lindsay Strand. “The extent of media coverage has been extremely successful over time and extremely positive.”

She said one of the keys of this success has been dentists’ commitment to work with their local media and to welcome reporters to cover local Give Kids a Smile events, even though it is often one of the dental offices’ busiest days of the year.

The media coverage not only informs low-income families about the availability of free care through the program, it also informs the public about the importance of dental health and the generosity of the dental community.

“It helps the public to see the caring and warmth that dentists have for all patients,” said Strand.

The MDA enhances the unpaid media coverage with advertising, paid for by generous sponsors. Ads appear on WCCO-TV, which produces the commercials at no cost, as well as strategically selected radio stations throughout the state.

Legislative influence

As a charitable outreach program, Give Kids a Smile has gained the dental professional greater credibility with legislators.

“I think legislators are very aware of the Give Kids a Smile program,” said Diercks. “It’s a visible demonstration to them of how dentists are willing to give back to the community. Without that, it’s very easy for them to be unaware of how much dentists do within their communities.”

While promoting dental issues in St. Paul, Diercks said, he has heard Give Kids a Smile referenced in committee meetings and other gatherings as an example of how to address needs of the underserved.

“In a general way, it has created a more positive and receptive environment at the capitol,” said Diercks. “Legislators are more receptive to listening to our message.”

Team building

At Schulz Family Dental in Burnsville, patients can read mounted newspaper articles and photos about the clinic’s participation in Give Kids a Smile. It makes the staff feel good, said Valerie Lyman, lead dental assistant and coordinator of the office’s Give Kids a Smile event.

Although their events usually involve treating three times the normal volume of patients - 22 children in a four-hour period - it leaves the staff feeling that they are part of an important cause.

“It’s just good,” she said. “You know the kids are taken care of.”

The team at Grand Rapids Dental Care ends their annual Give Kids a Smile event with a celebration.

“It’s a good feeling you get,” said Mike Hagley, DDS. “They are all kids and because they are kids you just want to help them. You can’t help but want to make them better. That’s the easy part.”

He and his staff usually treat 18 children. And anything they can’t do during the one-day event gets taken care of - at no charge - during future office visits.

“We work really hard and get a lot done,” said Hagley. “At the end of the day, we have a little celebration.”

Their celebration, fueled by lots of treats brought in by staff members, families of patients and even regular patients, is replicated throughout the state as team in about 200 dental offices take a moment to relish in the remarkable service they just provided.

Copyright 2007. Minnesota Dental Association
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