2023 marks the 20th year that San Juan College's Dental Hygiene Program participated in the Give Kids a Smile Program, providing dental care to local kids in need.

Drs. Gene Hilton and Julius Manz, shown side-by-side in the SJC Dental Clinic, have been working together on the GKAS event for many years.

Drs. Jeff Dallin and B. Ray Storm held the first Give Kids A Smile® (GKAS) event in 2002, in a run-down, soon-to-be-demolished dental clinic in St. Louis, where 15 patient chairs were scraped together to deliver free dental care to nearly 400 children.  

The American Dental Association recognized that this grassroots effort had great potential to raise awareness nationally about the importance of oral health to overall health, and about the staggering need that exists among millions of children who go without care.

In 2003, the Give Kids A Smile® program launched nationally providing underserved children with free oral health care. Each year approximately 6,500 dentists and  30,000 dental team members volunteer at local GKAS events to provide free oral health education, screenings and preventive and restorative treatment to more than 300,000  children.  

How Give Kids A Smile Event Began

In Farmington, GKAS started in 2003 as a collaboration between the Northwest District Dental Society (NWDDS) and the San Juan College Dental Hygiene Program (SJCDHP), when former NWDDS president, Dr. Chuck Schumacher, asked if SJCDHP would host the event.  

The first GKAS at San Juan College consisted of volunteer dentists assisted by dental hygiene students, who took x-rays, provided dental examinations and screenings and referred children to dentists in the community for final treatment. Dr. Chuck Schumacher and Dr. Julius Manz ran the first event and 36 children were treated.  

By 2006, Give Kids A Smile® provided as much comprehensive care as possible on the day of the event. Dentists will still refer out more extensive or long-term care such as orthodontics (braces), endodontics (root canals) and oral surgery, but the vast majority of the work is completed at GKAS day.  

“Over the years, we have seen more than 1,000 patients and provided more than $1 million in donated dentistry,” says Dr. Manz, San Juan College Dental Hygiene program director. “It has been a collaboration over the years between the NWDDS, the New Mexico Dental Association, the SJCDHP, the local schools, Boys and Girls Club, United Way and Subway.”

Helping the Community and Dental Hygiene Students

“It has faithfully been conducted in the SJCDHP clinic every year without fail since 2003, even during COVID,” continued Manz. “This is a program that has a great deal to offer. It provides oral health care to children in our community who otherwise may not be able to afford it. The event also provides an opportunity for San Juan College dental hygiene students to work in a public health project and see how it is organized. We are very proud to provide this service. As far as I know, we are the only component dental society that holds an event of this kind in New Mexico.”

This year’s event was held on Febuary 3, serving approximately 60 children. More than 25 dentists, dental hygienists and assistants volunteered their time to provide comprehensive dental care.