Uplifting the people with a smile

Dental and dental hygiene students bonded with the community at the Sharing Smiles Day event on April 8.

Cheryl Deslaurier - 18 April 2017

Sharing Smiles Day events are a part of Oral Health, Total Health (OHTH)-a Federal Non-Profit Organization led by students and faculty from dentistry faculties across Canada with a mission to advocate, educate and improve the oral health care for persons with developmental disabilities.

The event was the first one organized by the newly formed Alberta chapter. It was an informative and fun day with opportunities for positive interactions where any barriers between dental students and persons with developmental disabilities can be removed and positive relationships can be fostered.

Navi Bharj and Bryan Lim, second-year dental students and OHTH Alberta co-chairs, were instrumental in not only organizing the event, but also in setting up the Alberta chapter.

"We did it because we wanted to give back to the community," says Bharj. "We wanted to 'uplift the people' of Edmonton."

For Bharj, the most memorable moment of Sharing Smiles Day was working with individuals with developmental disabilities to educate and inform them on how to best take care of their oral health to keep on smiling.

"It really made it all worthwhile when Hannah, a young eight-year-old child, gave me a hug at the end of the day thanking us for organizing the event. She said it was wonderful, fun and yummy and she wants to come back next time," he says.

"We are very privileged to be in a field where we can make a difference in the community both in and out of the dental office."

Lim's favourite moment of the day was when he was talking to one of the parents at the Brushing and Flossing station who said that they learned today their child was brushing incorrectly and how to actually do it right.

"It was a good moment," says Lim.

More than 60 students from the dentistry and dental hygiene programs volunteered. The morning was filled with games, face painting and dental activities. The afternoon included oral hygiene education and demonstrations. Just over 65 caregivers and individuals with developmental disabilities attended the event.

"The students not only put on an event that helped others-they were also ambassadors for the School, the association and their sponsors," says Paul Major, chair of the School of Dentistry. "They are what makes this School vital to the health of its communities."