The only thing worse than seeing the dentist is not seeing the dentist.
Eighty-nine children received free dental services Saturday at the Creighton University clinic during National Children's Dental Health Month.
Clowns made hats, creatures and devices out of balloons, which they gave to the children and to some of the practitioners.
“You had Cookie Monster as a dentist?” Cory Humlicek asked his 8-year-old daughter, Cami.
Cami confirmed it. Her practitioner was third-year Creighton dental student Andrew Inaba, 25, of Honolulu.
He was young enough to remember Cookie Monster, a “Sesame Street” Muppet, and he wore a balloon on his head that looked vaguely like the creature.
“I eat a lot of cookies, too,” Inaba said.
He was among 60 Creighton dental students who participated in the Give Kids a Smile event. Thirty-six dental hygiene students from Iowa Western Community College and about 15 Creighton faculty members also participated.
Humlicek brought three daughters to the clinic for low-income families and the uninsured.
“It's tough to find dental insurance,” said Humlicek, an Omahan who has a lawn-care business.
Daughter Maggie, 11, said she received a fluoride varnish that tasted a bit like bubble gum.
“It's a gross bubble gum,” she observed.
Inaba enjoyed the morning. “Oh, it was awesome,” he said. “I love working with kids.”
Children received dental exams, X-rays, cleanings and fluoride treatments. If fillings or extractions were necessary, families were invited back for treatment for $20 per visit.
Students and dentists found ways to make the children's sessions fun, or at least tolerable.
Iowa Western dental hygiene student Becka Hooyer, 22, said one of her fellow students put a dental mask on a child's teddy bear.
“It was fairly hectic, especially at the beginning,” Hooyer, of Sioux Center, Iowa, said of the clinic. “A lot of fun, though.”
Dr. Gary Westerman, dean of community and preventive dentistry at Creighton, said his school has offered this event for about 15 years.
Westerman said the event gives Creighton dentists and students a chance to share their talents with those who need them, and it fits nicely with the university's mission of service.
“It's the right thing to do,” he said.
Round two: NU children's dental day is Friday in Lincoln
The University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Dentistry in Lincoln will hold its Children's Dental Day on Friday. Nearly 200 children from nine Nebraska communities will be treated to a day of carnival games along with teeth cleanings and, in some cases, extractions, fillings and root canals.
Children from Lexington and surrounding communities, Norfolk, Madison, Stanton, Wayne, Crete, Hastings, York and Lincoln are expected.
While upper-level dental and dental hygiene students work in the clinics, first-year students facilitate games with the children, including those that teach good snack choices, how soft drinks affect their teeth, what decay looks like and how to brush and floss.
Lunch and healthy snacks also are provided, and each child receives a goody bag of items, including a toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, activity book and stickers.
Nursing students from the UNMC College of Nursing, Lincoln division, will provide well child checks, and physician assistant students from Union College will assist with patient registration and clinic check-in.