Dr. Scott Morita
“Give Kids A Smile is a hugely impactful program in which dentists can use our skills to do good in the community…together we can all be Smile Makers!” - Dr. Scott Morita
Dr. Scott Morita is an orthodontist who practices in Hawaii. He attended the University of Southern California where he received a Bachelor’s degree in biology, a Doctorate of Dental Surgery, a Master’s in Craniofacial Biology, and a Certificate in Orthodontics. He is a member of many leading organizations, including the American Dental Association, American Association of Orthodontics, and the Pacific Coast Society of Orthodontists. He serves as Hawaii Orthodontic Society President, Hawaii Dental Association: Young Dentist Group President, Hawaii Dental Association Foundation Board member and Give Kids a Smile Hawaii Chairperson. Dr. Scott also volunteers regularly as an attending at the GPR and pediatric residency programs in Hawaii.
Organization through which your Give Kids A Smile® program takes place:
Our program is operated through the Hawaii Dental Association Foundation.
How long have you been involved in Give Kids A Smile?
I had the opportunity to get involved in Give Kids A Smile started in 2013. At that time, there was no formal GKAS event taking place in Hawaii. The Hawaii Dental Association wanted to start a GKAS program and needed someone to take the lead. The first program took place in 2014, and we only educated about 20 kids. I quickly realized that I needed help and guidance to spearhead a successful GKAS program. I was fortunate to be selected to attend the ADAF GKAS Ambassador program. This program was truly impactful in my development of how to host and organize a GKAS program. It helped me become a more effective program director as we started our program. Immediately after the ambassador program, we launched 2015 GKAS Hawaii. Based on the influence of GKAS in St. Louis, we implemented an educational program and a clinic event day program tailored to fit the unique needs of patients in Hawaii. That year, we did oral hygiene presentation at four elementary schools, educating about 400 children. That year we treated about 100 children during our GKAS event day, doing free screenings, cleanings, and fluoride treatments. An additional achievement that year we were able to have Hawaii Governor Ige issue a proclamation that designated February as Hawaii’s Children’s Dental Health Month.
Since then, our GKAS Hawaii program has flourished. In 2016, we reached even more schools and we started education programs on neighboring islands Maui and Kauai. We educated about 600 children that year and saw 120 kids at the event day program. Also in 2016, the mayor of Honolulu proclaimed the day of the event as “GKAS Hawaii Day.” This past year, 2017, was our third event, and the Hawaii Senate signed a proclamation recognizing February as Give Kids A Smile Hawaii Month. We also started a new 501(c)(3) organization – the Hawaii Dental Association Foundation. The number of children benefiting from our GKAS program also increased. We expanded our services to the neighboring Big Island, and we educated about 800 kids and treated 150 kids on event day. As utilization is a prominent issue, the GKAS event is held at an FQHC, so we can sign up a lot of kids who do not have insurance and whose parents might not have signed them up for Medicaid. We’re looking forward to an amazing 2018 – we are already anticipating educating 1,000 kids, with 200 kids coming to the GKAS day, not including the events on neighbor islands. We are also working on another proclamation from the state House of Representatives. We couldn’t have come this far without the ADA Foundation and the training!
Why do you participate in Give Kids A Smile programs?
Volunteerism has always been an important part of my life. Dental mission trips to Guatemala, Costa Rica, Mexico, and Nicaragua helped solidify my conviction that dentistry changes lives. Because I was heavily involved in student leadership at USC, I sought involvement with the Hawaii Dental Association when I returned. Radiating enthusiasm for outreach and leadership, I was asked to start the GKAS Hawaii program.
Why is the Give Kids A Smile program important?
Give Kids a Smile represents a way to do good in the community using our dental skill sets and providing professional services that only we can offer. With the lack of formal lessons on brushing and flossing in our public education system and no fluoridated water, Hawaii’s kids suffer from such a high caries rate. The education and services provided from the amazing dentists involved with Give Kids a Smile are a great start to helping kids start forming good habits at a young age.
Please tell us a story about how your Give Kids A Smile program helped a child/children in need.
Hawaii has an ever-growing homeless population, which is notable for including whole families. Children who are homeless jump from shelter to shelter or temporary living space. Even when they have access to care, it’s hard for them to get their parents to utilize that care. One little girl came to a GKAS education event, where she received a goodie bag with a toothbrush, toothpaste and floss. When she went home, someone stole her toothbrush and toothpaste. She was devastated. As soon as we heard her story, we provided her another set, and the teacher designated a special space for this young student to keep her toothbrush safe at school and brush her teeth there. She was thrilled that she could take care of her teeth in a stable, reliable place, and the other children observed how important it was for her to take care of her teeth. You wouldn’t think a simple thing like a simple goodie bag or an education session would make such a difference, but it makes a big impact for a child who is constantly on the move.
Visit the HDA Foundation website.