FARMINGTON — Students in San Juan College's Dental Hygiene Program and area dentists are partnering together to host a free youth dental clinic on Friday as part of the National "Give Kids a Smile" Day.

The event, which will offer free dental care for children ages 5 to 12, is a way to give back to the community, while also providing dental hygiene students an opportunity for service learning, said Dr. Julius Manz, director of the Dental Hygiene Program.

"Not only do the students learn in the classroom, they learn in a way that gives back to the community at the same time," he said.

For the last 13 years, the college has participated in "Give Kids a Smile" Day, which is locally sponsored by the Northwest District Dental Society.

Manz said dental hygiene students and local dentists volunteer to perform examinations and take X-rays, and after consulting with a parent or guardian, they perform the necessary dental work on the children.

“We’ll get as much done on a particular child as we can in that given day,” Manz said. “Sometimes, we’ll perform eight to nine fillings on one kid.”

The event provides care for children whose parents cannot pay for treatment because they lack dental insurance or are not covered by Medicaid, Manz said.

“There (are) a lot of people that make too much money to get that Medicaid, but they don’t make enough money to buy their own insurance,” Manz said.

Working with the children provides a valuable learning experience for the dental hygiene students, said Jenna Suazo, a senior in the program.

“It’s a whole new ballgame when you treat a child,” Suazo said. “You get a whole range of kids who behave or tolerate being in the dental chair. It’s just a great experience to understand how to communicate with them, as well as their family.”

Students will perform X-rays, teeth cleanings and fluoride treatments, along with educating children about dental hygiene.

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627.

If you go

What: San Juan College Dental Hygiene Program's "Give Kids a Smile" Day dental clinic

When: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday

Where: The Dental Hygiene Program clinic inside the Health and Human Performance Center at  San Juan College's main campus, 4601 College Blvd., Farmington

More info: To make an appointment, contact San Juan United Way at 505-326-1195. No appointments will be made at the clinic, and no walk-in patients will be accepted.

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