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Helping Kids Brush Up on Oral Health: UIC College of Dentistry Hosts ‘Give Kids a Smile Day’

Give Kids a Smile 2024

The month of February marked National Children’s Dental Health Month, and to honor it, the University of Illinois Chicago College of Dentistry helped underserved kids in Chicago brush up on their dental health.

For the 22nd year, faculty, students and pre-dental student volunteers joined the American Dental Association (ADA) to observe the national “Give Kids a Smile Day.” This year the event was held at the college on Feb. 8, 2024. More than 100 kindergarteners, first and sixth graders attended from two local schools, St. Malachy, 2252 W. Washington Blvd., Chicago and Children of the Peace Catholic School, 1900 W. Taylor St., Chicago.

“This is a favorite event for our faculty and students because we all are so passionate about getting kids excited about and interested in their oral healthcare,” said Khatija Noorullah, clinical assistant professor who co-organized the event with Dr. Sahar Alrayyes, clinical professor of pediatric dentistry.

Oral Health Starts with Prevention and Education

“This helps understand the basics of oral health, and the basics of brushing, flossing and eating right to prevent cavities,” Noorullah added.

At the event, more than 100 children received a comprehensive oral examination, teeth cleaning, oral health education and dietary recommendations. Any treatment that was diagnosed during the exams was reported to the parents, along with referrals for treatment at the dental school.

Cavities (also known as dental caries or tooth decay) are the most common chronic disease of childhood in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Untreated cavities can cause pain and infections that may lead to problems with eating, speaking, playing, and learning. Children who have poor oral health often miss more school and receive lower grades than children who don’t.

The Give Kids a Smile (GKAS) program, launched nationally in 2003, provides underserved children with free oral health care. Each year, about 6,500 dentists and 30,000 dental team members volunteer at local GKAS events to provide free oral health education, screenings, preventive and restorative treatment to over 300,000 children.

Tips for Children’s Oral Health

The CDC encourages parents to help their children’s oral health with these tips:

  • Brush their teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.
  • Help your child brush their teeth until they have good brushing skills.
    If your child is younger than six, brush your child’s teeth.
  • If your child is less than 3 years old, use a thin smear of toothpaste or an amount about the size of a grain of rice.
  • If your child is 3 to 6 years old, use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste and have them spit it out the excess after brushing, but don’t rinse with water.
  • Ask your child’s dentist to apply dental sealants when appropriate.
  • Drink tap water that contains fluoride.

The UIC College of Dentistry offers services in comprehensive, urgent and specialty care. To schedule an appointment, please visit:


National Children’s Dental Health Month
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Untreated cavities can cause pain and infections that may lead to problems with eating.
CDC kids with poor dental health receive lower grades