Dental hygiene program to offer free kids’ dental clinic

Photo by Kaiden Pope| Emily Morgan, dental hygiene program student, talks to a patient through her cleaning in room L150 on Feb. 7, 2018.

Photo by Kaiden Pope| Emily Morgan, dental hygiene program student, talks to a patient through her cleaning in room L150 on Feb. 7, 2018.

Kaiden Pope


On Saturday Feb. 17, from 11 a.m.–2 p.m., the Parkland dental hygiene program will be holding a free event called “Give Kids a Smile Day” to offer kids free dental care.

Children aged 1–17 will be able to walk in to room L148, without an appointment, to get their teeth cleaned, among other services. The event is an  annual event supported by the American Dental Association. 

Peg Boyce, dental hygiene program director and event coordinator, explained that the event will be staffed by both Parkland students and staff and by local dentists. It is sponsored by the Illini Dental Society and SmileHealthy, a not-for profit dental association through Promise Healthcare, as well as by the ADA.

The sponsors help by offering dental staff and supplies. Even though the sponsors bring in local dentists, the event is mainly supported by the efforts of the dental hygiene students.

In Parkland’s dental hygiene program, students are taught to provide services such as oral examinations, explain proper oral hygiene to patients, do dental cleanings, apply sealants, teeth bleaching, infection control, and to administer local anesthesia and sedation for more invasive operations. Many of these skills will be provided during the event.

“It is held to help the community.” Boyce said. “I love it, because it gives [the students] an opportunity to work with other dental professionals, and [I] like them to see what that’s like…because two thirds of [students] are from out of this district. This will allow them to go home and make more like this, like a ripple effect [of dental care]. It also gives the program students experience with children.”

This event is one of three annual events that Parkland holds during the spring semester. The first, which was held on Saturday, Feb. 3, was an event targeting the Latino community in Champaign-Urbana. It joined up with Parkland’s Latino Club and local Latino organizations to offer free screenings for community members. The screenings helped 70 patients get set up for future cleanings and other dental care.

“Give Kids a Smile Day” is the second event. The third event on April 14, called “Day of Healthy Smiles,” has been held for the past five years. This event is only offered to patients who do not otherwise have access to dental care or who can’t afford it and who come into Parkland’s dental program ahead of the event. Each appointment is $10.

Boyce explained that because the need for dental care is so great, and their time and supplies are limited, they can only offer the “Day of Healthy Smiles” services to those who have already come in for a screening, cleaning, and x-rays. After patients have come in to Parkland’s dental clinic, they can schedule their appointment during the “Day of Healthy Smiles” event. Local dentists and oral surgeons schedule 85–100 patients for fillings and extractions for this free event.

She says the dental hygiene program at Parkland has a community code of ethics that strongly supports giving back to the community.

“This is a community college,” Boyce said, “and I feel that our program goals are modeled by our staff and benefit the local community.”

The first “Give Kids a Smile Day” was founded in 2002 by Drs. Jeff Dalin, and B. Ray Storm in a building in St. Louis that was scheduled for demolition according to their website. Dalin and Storm scrounged up 15 dental chairs and offered their services to roughly 400 St. Louis children.

When the American Dental Association heard of this effort, they worked together with Henry Schein, Proctor and Gamble, and DEXIS to bring it to nationwide attention in 2003. Together, “Give Kids a Smile Day” has helped over 5.5 million children to have access to free dental care.

The event at Parkland began with Boyce, who, in 2007 began the collaboration with the Illini Dental Society and SmileHealthy to bring dental services to the Parkland community. Boyce attributed the collaboration with SmileHealthy to a Parkland college graduate.

Boyce was hired to be the dental hygiene program director in 2007. The same year, Parkland’s dental program started sending mobile units to Marketplace Mall to give services to local community members. In 2009, Boyce started coordinating the collaboration with the dental societies to offer more services to the community.

Originally, only six dental patients could be served at one time, but since Parkland began hosting the event in 2016, they can offer 17 patients services at one time. This greatly increased the number of local community members that could be served through the duration of the event.

Boyce said that she expects to continue holding these events as long as she is around.

For more information, contact Boyce by email at or by phone at 217-351-2386.