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Dentists, students take day to treat children in need of dental care
Local elementary, middle students bused to Give Kids a Smile clinic
Lanier Technical College instructor Vanessa Jones sees to a young patient Friday morning at the school's Oakwood campus during the Northern District Dental Society's sixth annual Give Kids a Smile clinic. Volunteer dentists, hygienists, assistants, students and other community helpers donate dental treatment at no cost to children.

“It gets kind of crazy,” David Byers, head of the dental hygiene program at Lanier Technical College, said Friday morning as about 100 volunteers provided free dental care to area students.

As many as 200 children – elementary and middle school students – were expected to be treated during the day-long “Give Kids A Smile” clinic.

Fifteen area dentists volunteered to work during the event. Dental hygienists from local practices as well as students and graduates from Lanier Tech also helped out.

It was the third year the program has been held at Lanier Tech in its dental lab – where 12 students at a time could be served.

“We never know what we’re going to have coming in,” Byers said.

Services include teeth cleaning, periodontal work, fillings and pulling some teeth. The dentists occasionally find a student who needs more detailed, or extensive, work.

Byers said students are sometimes referred to a specific dental practice for further services – also provided for free.

Eight buses rolled into Lanier Tech with students to be served. Byers said the students watch movies until time for their treatment. Those students must be treated by early afternoon, he said, so the buses can leave Lanier Tech by 1:30 p.m. to get them back to school.

He explained four other rooms also were used – two for radiology and two for triage – where dentists assessed the needs of the students and sent them to the lab for work.

Students from the Hall County and Gainesville school systems are pre-identified for care. Byers also said other students are expected to visit the clinic Friday afternoon, using private transportation.

“We care for what we can here,” he said, and explained that is often quite a lot.

The use of the lab is a big help in organizing and moving students through the process, Byers and Ryan Vaughn, who organized the event, said.

Before moving the event to the lab, Vaughn said, it was held in private dental practices. That was more difficult logistically, he said.

In addition to Byers and Vaughn, other dentists who volunteered are Matthew Vaughn, James Hicks, Ben Hawkins, Johnny Martin, Alla Brown, Shilpa Singh, Heather McGee, Sean Cochran, Lindsey Anderson. Tom Weyrich, Bhavik Patel, Denise Brown and John Uestsuki.

Ryan Vaughn explained the clinic is a service of Northern District Dental Society of Georgia, and this was the sixth year for the clinic. Organizing started in September, he said.

Everyone who shows up is seen, Byers said.

“Some people may just have a numb smile,” he said.