Skip to content

Dental pros, CVTC students, work to ‘Give Kids a Smile’

EAU CLAIRE, WI – Ty’cen Siegert, 6, sat wearing his Elk Mound Mounders hat fiddling with a dinosaur toy as he waited his turn at the dental office, showing signs that some might misinterpret.

“No, he’s not nervous at all,” said his mother, Jessica Siegert. “But this is his first trip to the dentist.”

The opportunity was presented Feb. 5 at the annual Give Kids a Smile event at Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC). Sponsored nationwide by the American Dental Association and locally by the Chippewa Valley Dental Society and the Wisconsin Dental Association, Give Kids a Smile Day events offer free dental care to children ages 2-13. This is CVTC’s tenth year hosting the event locally.

Young patients receive an exam and teeth cleaning, and some basic services like cavity fillings, and get a good helping of dental care education as well. Ty’cen was among about 130 patients seen by area volunteer dentists, hygienists, dental assistants and students in the CVTC Dental Hygienist program.

“We wanted to get his teeth cleaned and an exam,” said Siegert, who noted that the family has health insurance, but not dental insurance. “And we wanted him to see what it’s like going to the dentist.”

Bethany Kini of Eau Claire also brought her son, Nashawn Alexander, 3, for his first-ever dental appointment.

“He’s a little nervous, but he’s being a good man,” Kini said. “And they’re doing really good with him.”

“For many of these kids, this is the only time they get any sort of dental treatment. That’s why this event is so important,” said Pam Entorf, director of CVTC’s Dental Hygienist and Dental Assistant programs. “And all these people who are donating their time and talents realize it’s important. That’s why they come back to help us out year after year.”

“I have taken part in this almost yearly,” said Dr. Tom Machgan of Machgan Family Dental in Eau Claire. “I want to give back to the community.”

Machgan said the dental problems he sees are very similar to what he sees among children in his regular practice. “I think it’s an access to care issue that brings them here,” he said.

That was the issue for Kini, who called the CVTC Dental Clinic to see about bringing her children in for appointments and heard she could bring them for free during Give Kids a Smile. She said she is on BadgerCare, and has had difficulty finding dentists to accept new BadgerCare patients.

New to the event this year were free health screenings offered by UW Health Family Medicine Clinic, which is located in CVTC’s Health Education Center along with the dental clinic. Resident physicians provided the check-ups with CVTC Nursing students helping with some services.

“This is a multi-disciplinary event in which families can get assessments done,” said Entorf.

“We’re checking vaccines and using the Wisconsin Immunization Registry and offering them the vaccines that they may be behind on,” said Mona Matthews of UW-Health and a CVTC Board of Trustees member.

In addition to being a great service of the families, the event is a great education experience for the CVTC students taking part, like Kari Steinmetz, a Dental Hygienist student from Bloomer. The students get plenty of hands-on experience through their work at the dental clinic, but Give Kids a Smile is something different.

“It’s a lot more fast-paced and hectic,” Steinmetz said. “And everyone is so different. It’s great that kids who can’t afford to come to the dentist are getting care.”

The hygienists also provide much of the dental health education that comes with the visits, something important to moms like Kini.

“I’m always for learning,” she said. “It’s really important that they get instruction from someone other than me.”

Chippewa Valley Technical College delivers superior, progressive technical education which improves the lives of students, meets the workforce needs of the region, and strengthens the larger community. Campuses are located in Chippewa Falls, Eau Claire, Menomonie, Neillsville and River Falls. CVTC serves an 11-county area in west central Wisconsin. CVTC is part of the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) and is one of 16 WTCS colleges located throughout the state.