Hygiene and treatment units will be set up in Highmark Stadium to serve more than 200 kids

BUFFALO, N.Y. – More than 240 Western New York elementary school students will receive free dental care while visiting with Billy, the Buffalo Bills mascot, for a half-day event on Tuesday, May 14, at Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park.

The University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine is partnering with TeamSmile, a Kansas City, Mo.-based nonprofit organization that pairs oral health professionals with professional athletic organizations to provide dental care to underserved children in communities across the country.

Eight faculty members from UB’s dental school and 25 dental students, along with residents in advanced education in pediatric dentistry, advanced education in general dentistry and the Erie County Medical Center, will provide care to the young patients in 13 treatment units and 16 hygiene units. This includes dental checks, cleanings, fluoride treatments, X-rays and, in some cases, teeth fillings or extractions at no cost to the children.
The children will arrive by bus from seven schools in Buffalo and the Southtowns.

“We wanted to include schools we haven’t had the opportunity to work with in past outreach events that are also in close proximity to the Bills stadium,” said Meelin Dian Chin Kit-Wells DDS, clinical assistant professor in the dental school, who is heading up the UB portion of the event. “And we definitely wanted to include Stanley Makowski Early Childhood Center, which is located near the Tops Market on Jefferson Avenue, as our event falls on the second anniversary of the Tops massacre. We want those children to know we support them and they are loved.”

Representatives from national partner Colgate will offer educational games and activities that focus on dental health, and the children will have the opportunity to dance to DJ-inspired music, have their faces painted and possibly meet a few Bills players.
“A lot of children we serve haven’t ever been to the dentist, haven’t been frequently or had a bad experience,” said Kami Thomas, director of TeamSmile. “We create an environment that is less stressful for them. We want the children to come away with a positive feeling about dental care.”
One of the goals of TeamSmile is to connect children with ongoing dental care. When children register for the event, their parents are asked if they have a dental care home.
“We’ve found through the years that over half of the families do not,” Thomas said.
To remedy this situation, a dental school representative identifies dentists in the Buffalo area who will provide dental care at no cost or through Medicaid. She will provide this list to parents after the event and follow up throughout the year to ensure they connect with a dental care provider.

The upcoming Buffalo event is one of many outreach initiatives in the community that the dental school leads or participates in.
“UB is incredibly involved in TeamSmile; it’s a true equal partner,” Thomas said. “We don’t find that with most dental schools. UB provides so many volunteers and is very engaged.”
Other presenting partners of the event are Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield and United Concordia Dental Insurance Co.

What: UB School of Dental Medicine is partnering with the TeamSmile organization to provide free dental care to more than 200 local elementary schoolchildren

When: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Tuesday, May 14

Where: Highmark Stadium, (Southside Club), One Bills Dr., Orchard Park, N.Y. 14127

Other details: The event features a pilot program for children with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). The dental school is collaborating with occupational therapists and OT students at UB to provide care for approximately 20 children in sensory adapted dental environments.