Western University dental students sharing smiles with people with special needs

The name says it all: Sharing Smiles Day. On Saturday, April 21st from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the Great Hall in Somerville House at Western University, dental practitioners, students, faculty and staff from Western’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry are partnering with Community Living London and the organization Oral Health, Total Health (OHTH) for the third annual Sharing Smiles Day. The event is aimed at removing barriers, raising awareness, and educating dental students and dentists about the importance of oral health care for persons with special needs. 
In its first two years, Sharing Smiles Day has welcomed more than 250 special needs participants in London and surrounding areas. The day includes games led by dental students, a luncheon and dental demonstrations by faculty dentists on proper oral care.  “This event educates future dental practitioners on how to provide oral care for persons with special needs, and raises awareness on the need for proper oral care for this particular population,” says Andy Shih, a Schulich Dentistry student and co-chair of the London chapter of OHTH.  Dental care is one of the top unmet health needs for persons with special needs, and research has shown this client population is at increased risk of oral disease.
“Sharing Smiles Day is the start of a long-term commitment to break down the barriers between persons with special needs and future dentists,” says Maureen Tomchick, Supervisor of Community Access Services for Community Living London.  This year, the program has expanded to include Middlesex Community Living. 
Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, Deb Matthews will be a special guest at the event, along with Dr. Michael Strong, Dean of Schulich Medicine & Dentistry, Dr. Harinder Sandhu, Vice-Dean and Director of Schulich Dentistry, Dr. Richard Bohay, Acting-Director of Schulich Dentistry, and Dr. David Mock, Dean of the Faculty of Dentistry at the University of Toronto.
OHTH is affiliated with Mount Sinai Hospital’s Dentistry Clinic for Persons with Special Needs in Toronto, where people with disabilities across Ontario go to receive the dental care they need.  The non-profit organization is a collective effort of dental faculty and students from Schulich Dentistry and the Faculty of Dentistry at the University of Toronto, who have a vision of one day living in a country where all people, regardless of disability, have universal access to oral health care in their communities.  Through fundraising, promoting awareness, and educating dental students, dentists and community access workers, OHTH hopes to bring oral care to the people who need it most.
For more information, contact Andy Shih ashih2013@dents.uwo.ca or Kathy Wallis, Media Relations Officer, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, The University of Western Ontario, 519-661-2111 ext. 81136, Kathy.wallis@schulich.uwo.ca