Dr. Rishita Jaju, annually opens the doors of her Reston-area Smile Wonders pediatric dental practice to serve as the home for Give Kids a Smile® Day for free dental care each February. This is one of the ways they provide community service and participate in Dental Awareness Month campaign held by the American Dental Association.
“Each February, my team and I go to schools and daycare centers throughout the month to give dental screenings and promote good dental care and oral hygiene,” Dr. Jaju explained. Screenings are done at school with parental permission, to identify visible decay or areas of pain that might need urgent dental help. “Often, we get a school nurse’s report of a child losing class time due to dental pain complaints. Other times, they have over-retained baby teeth impacting growth of adult teeth, for example.”
Some parents don’t even realize that dental pain is at the root of their child’s behavior as a ‘picky eater’ or a ‘slow and messy eater’. Once they are informed that a dental issue was contributing to child’s behavior, they are eager to get help, but often run into financial constraints. The kids who come to this yearly event are there because of need. Some are from the homeless shelter, while others have parents who cannot afford to pay for one reason or another and were in need of dental care. “It is for those children and families that we host our event,” said Dr. Jaju.
On the day of the Give Kids a Smile event, Dr. Jaju was accompanied by her staff, two dentists – Dr. Uzma Ansari of Lowes Island Dentistry and Dr. Mitali Patel from Children’s National™ Health System Department of Dentistry – and five other volunteers referred from Virginia Dental Association. Local and dental vendors also got in on the act, with items like coloring and activity books, and translated Spanish and English home care instructional materials provided by Henry Schein Dental Supplies.
The dental professionals arrived early to discover a queue of parents and children eagerly waiting in the first-come, first-serve line. Throughout the day, the professionals provided oral health screenings, education, cleanings, x-rays, fillings, crowns and extractions. The event took on a party-like atmosphere, with games, music, balloons, bubbles and toys.
“Community service is one of the founding pillars of professional satisfaction” for Dr. Jaju. She has participated in many events overseas such as the Operation Smile missions in Vietnam and India, and also enjoys the ability to provide service right here to our local community. She hopes to be able to continue with many such initiatives annually with help from her staff and colleagues.
Those interested in participating in the February 2018 Give Kids a Smile event or receiving services for their children should contact Smile Wonders.