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Adam Saltz

Nova Southeastern University College of Dental Medicine
Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

“One of our more anxious kids was eventually so captured by our enthusiasm that he wanted to be a dentist by the end of his visit.”                 

Adam Saltz
  • MPH | NSU College of Osteopathic Medicine '16
  • DMD | NSU College of Dental Medicine '17
  • National Editor-In-Chief, American Student Dental Association
Adam Saltz helps develop content for the Editorial Board of the American Student Dental Association as the national editor-in-chief. He also serves as a student consultant to the ADA Council on Access, Prevention and Interprofessional Relations. His desire to improve public health led him to pursue a position as a director of NSU's Give Kids A Smile, which recently won the ADA Foundation Tarrson Award. Adam is currently enrolled in a D.M.D./M.P.H. track (May, 2016).

Organization through which your Give Kids A Smile program takes place:
Nova Southeastern University College of Dental Medicine

I serve as one of the Give Kids A Smile program directors. Nova Southeastern University (NSU) College of Dental Medicine provided pro-bono dental services to 750 school children and special needs patients in South Florida on Friday, February 5, 2016. Our event was the national 2016 GKAS kick-off event. Read the story in ADA News, and see our video on YouTube.

The duration of your involvement in the GKAS program:
I’ve been involved with Give Kids A Smile for the past six years. Throughout undergrad, I worked as different mascots, promoting oral hygiene education as “Timmy the Tooth” and “Healthy Matthew.” I had the opportunity to then serve as a class representative my first year of dental school. I was appointed to the team of program directors the following two years. I am excited to head our GKAS in 2017. Our program is designed to groom leaders, and I’ve been fortunate to see my leadership in GKAS grow. Now, I’m doing the same to prepare future leaders who are in undergrad and the early years of dental school. We strive to make sure that our leaders are experienced and committed to the program – it’s hard to understand the months of planning that go into one of these events. From working with students, faculty and administration to financial considerations and sponsorship, we want to be sure program leaders have what it takes to succeed.

Why do you participate in Give Kids A Smile programs?
I started volunteering in dental outreach programs in high school. My father organized the first Dentists Who Care For ME program in Maine, and I had the chance to see first-hand the impact pro-bono work could have on an underserved community. I’ve been inspired to give back ever since. When I heard about Give Kids A Smile, I saw parallels in the program’s structure and an opportunity to help my new (South Florida) community. There is such a great need for oral healthcare here, but so many potential barriers that limit its accessibility. Bringing people to a healthy baseline is so important, and it’s what launched my pursuit in dental public health. I’m graduating with a Master of Public Health degree this year as a fourth-year dental student. It’s easy to translate my interest in community health to Give Kids A Smile. As much as this program has given to me, I’d like to give that back.

Why is the program important? Please share your personal thoughts.
I see three ways in which people are disconnected from oral health care. They can’t afford it. They can’t physically access it. They don’t see the value in it. Many people fail to understand that treating dental disease early can prevent its progression toward costly or invasive treatment options. Events like Give Kids A Smile show people from a young age that proper at-home behavior is critical to maintaining dental health and overall health. Give Kids A Smile provides more than comprehensive dental treatment. Its educational component highlights the interplay or oral and systemic diseases through nutritional counseling and a review of oral hygiene. That takes this program beyond a simple service effort.

Please tell us a story about how your Give Kids A Smile program helped a child/children in need.
There are always lots of great stories. To me, seeing young children have a great experience at their first dental visit is the most special. Sometimes when they come in, they are feeding off the fear and anxiety of their parents. But when we invite a tooth fairy and a cast of movie characters to a carnival-like atmosphere, their visit is not so scary and unfamiliar. We can calm the kids down and get them to smile. I worked this year with my patient’s family, and her son, who was initially so frightened, became so interested in his visit that he started trying on my loupes and checking out my instruments. By the end of his cleaning, he said that he wanted to be a dentist. It’s rewarding to be a role model for these kids. As a dental student, I’m closer to them age-wise, and rather than just treating or providing them with a dental education, I can inspire them with a new career path.