Event brings dental care, Detroit Lions to local students

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Most dental visits don’t include a live DJ or meeting a Detroit Lions football player, but for some Detroit students, that’s exactly what happened.

In the gymnasium at Brenda Scott Academy on Friday, about 300 students from the school enjoyed free dental screening and treatment to the sound of today’s top hits. The kids were gifted glitter tattoos, face paint and for one lucky group, the chance to meet Lions goaltender Kerby Joseph and Derrick Deese, Jr.

The event, organized by the national nonprofit Team Smile, in collaboration with the Delta Dental Foundation, aimed to combine sport and fun while demystifying dentistry. The event offered free dental care to all interested students with parental permission, regardless of financial level.

“By using sport, we want to make it cool,” said John McCarthy, executive director of Team Smile, “we want to eliminate fear.”

Brenda Scott Academy student Melody Johnson, center, shows off her autographed t-shirt, signed by Detroit Lions Safety Kerby Joseph, during an event at Brenda Scott Academy in Detroit on Friday, June 10, 2022. The Detroit District Dental Society joined the Detroit Lions and Team Smile as volunteer dentists and dental staff to provide free dental care to students.

For 6-year-old Arian Ware, the event did just that. “I loved going out there and putting things in my mouth,” she said, pointing to a row of dental hygienists before backbend excitedly, “that was the best!”

According to Willie Brewster, Principal of Brenda Scott Academy, the event was part of the school’s overall campaign to encourage healthy habits.

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“Because of the pandemic, many of us – adults too – have missed the opportunity to take care of our health,” said Brewster, “even though it was their first time or our first time since the pandemic. [receiving dental care]this opportunity has been really cool.”

Brenda Scott Academy students walk to the gymnasium as a student performs dental work, during an event at Brenda Scott Academy in Detroit on Friday, June 10, 2022. The Detroit District Dental Society joined the Detroit Lions and Team Smile as volunteer dentists and dental staff to provide free dental care to students.

While most of the children seemed to enjoy the event, Dr. Jehan Wakeem, president of the Detroit District Dental Society and one of the event’s volunteer dentists, was disheartened to see some students in pain.

“The kids come in and they’re in pain, they’ve been in pain for a long time. I’m looking at what the problem is and the tooth is completely decayed,” she told the Free Press, “the tooth needs to be taken out…we don’t can’t even fix it.”

Most cases like this are preventable, Wakeem said, by brushing your teeth twice a day, reducing sugar intake and scheduling regular dental appointments to maintain oral health.

For help with dental care, Michigan residents can visit smilehelpnow.org to find dental clinics that offer sliding scale payment and accept Medicaid.

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