"I am a Public Health Dental Hygienist and work in New York City public schools. There is never a day where I do not see a child who does not have an infection, toothache, swollen face or a cavity … I had to do something."
Brooklyn, New York
Organization through which your Give Kids A Smile program takes place:
- Registered Dental Hygienist, New York University College of Dentistry
- Certified Small Group Facilitator, Cultural Competence for Oral Health Professionals, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Minority Health
- Certified Patient Navigator (PN), Harold. P. Freeman Patient Navigation Institute
- Certified Community Health Worker (CHW), Kingsborough Community College
Wings of A Dove Foundation, Inc.
The duration of your involvement in the GKAS program.
This is my first event.
Why do you participate in Give Kids A Smile programs?
I started my nonprofit Wings of a Dove Foundation in memory of my mom, Florence Davis, who battled oral cancer for 22 months. Her sun was set in December, 2010. I was angry and I realized that as a dental professional I don’t just do prophys all day long … I am an educator, advocate, motivator and highly resourceful. My goal was to bring awareness to this devastating disease that took my mom’s life too soon. Stage 3 Squamous Cell Carcinoma. I reached out to community leaders, spoke at corridor events and meetings in churches and community centers. I spoke wherever anyone would listen to me. As my mom’s caregiver, I faced huge disparities – access to care, insurance issues, resources and support. My mom “Passed the baton,” and I WILL help her finish the race.
I started to notice whenever I would speak at an event, the majority of questions were:
- Are you a dentist/hygienist?
- I need a dentist and so do my children – how do I find one?
- Does your office take insurance?
And the #1 question revolved around these statements: I do not have insurance, I cannot afford to pay for care, and I don’t know where to go for help.
A light bulb went off. As a dental hygienist I don’t have all the answers, but I can help people get them. I called dental companies and community centers, I built a website … I also drew up a simple curriculum and with that in hand I did my first oral health education and information event at the YMCA in Brooklyn, NY in 2015.
In the fall of 2015 I reached out to Pat Alexander of the ADA Foundation, told her my story, and asked what I could do to volunteer my time to benefit the vulnerable underserved and underrepresented population. She introduced me to “Give Kids A Smile,” and the rest is history.
Why is the program important? Please share your personal thoughts.
This program is important because it addresses the problem I see first-hand: the devastation of what tooth decay can do to a family and most importantly the child. They are unable to function in school. They make multiple visits to the ER to be given antibiotics but that’s not a remedy for the problem, and it costs taxpayers millions every year.
Consider Deamonte Driver. His life could have been spared if his infected tooth was simply removed -- a procedure costing just $80, and instead it cost him his life. Families are faced with obstacles with Medicaid, poverty and access to resources, resulting in an easily preventable health problem turning deadly. His story underscores the growing need in this wealthy nation to provide adequate dental care to our nation's children.
I am a Public Health Dental Hygienist and work in New York City public schools. There is never a day where I do not see a child who does not have an infection, toothache, swollen face or a cavity. On average I may see anywhere from 15-25 children a day. It breaks my heart when I see a 6-year-old with their first molars and all four of their 6-year molars have cavities, or the 4-year-old who has 6 or 7 cavities in their mouth and didn’t brush because they don’t have toothpaste or don’t know what floss is … I had to do something.
So the Give Kids A Smile program is needed in every community. I am in a position to help provide access. I am able to treat and prevent these diseases through education, not forgetting to find these kids a dental home. As a community health worker, my goal is to meet with government officials and local dentists who would accept these patients for follow-up and/or continued care after events such as this. So, as the ADA Foundation continues to do their part, I will stand and do my part and be and advocate and volunteer my time to help “Give Kids A Smile.” The solution is EDUCATION, ACCESS, and PREVENTION.
Charmaine Davis RDH, PN, CHW
Wings of A Dove Foundation, Inc.