Case Western Reserve University dental students will use their training and talents to make a positive impact in the community as part of the annual Give Kids a Smile Day on Friday, Feb. 2.

The dental students will team up with local professional dentists to provide free oral care for hundreds of Cleveland children. Dentists and dental professionals volunteer their time to provide screenings, treatments and oral-health education to local children.

“The program has grown over the years and is a part of most all dental societies throughout the country,” said Ronald Occhionero, associate dean for administration at the School of Dental Medicine.

Case Western Reserve has hosted the program since its inception in 2003.

More than 250 students from Alfred A. Benesch, Marion-Sterling and George Washington Carver elementary schools in Cleveland will receive services at clinics located in the dental school and on the University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital Ronald McDonald Care Mobile unit.

Recent dental school research has shown that healthy oral hygiene habits in school-aged children lead to better oral health in adults.

“Our dental students can have a positive and lasting influence on how these children will perceive dental care and its importance for their lifetimes,” Occhionero said.

The Greater Cleveland Dental Society’s initiative at the dental school is one of the largest of a series of similar events nationally, in partnership through the American Dental Association.

The local initiative is expected to exceed $60,000 worth of dental care.

According to the Ohio Dental Association, in 15 years of Give Kids a Smile, Ohio dental volunteers have provided more than $13.5 million in dental care to over 250,000 underserved children.

Last year’s event provided nearly $1 million in care, provided free to about 15,000 children statewide.

At the event—coordinated by dental society president Daniel Gindi and co-chair Amberlee Taylor, both Case Western Reserve both clinical assistant professors and members of the dental society—the children will learn about dental care from the volunteers, videos and even puppets.

Already pre-screened in their school, the children will receive preventive and restorative care, including oral examinations, dental prophylaxis, radiographs and sealants, along with proper oral hygiene instruction.