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These dentists and Lanier Tech students gave 150 kids a free smile
Lanier Tech Give Kids a Smile
Dental hygienist Jena Payne, of Cleveland Family Dental Center, cleans a child's teeth Friday, Feb. 7, 2020, at Lanier Technical College as she joins other volunteers for the annual Give Kids a Smile event. - photo by Scott Rogers

Going to the dentist doesn’t have to be scary.

“Toy Story 4” blared in the background and a magician performed daring tricks as 150 kids from all over Hall County packed into Lanier Technical College on Friday, Feb. 7, for the 10th annual Give Kids A Smile event.

“They come scared because a lot of these kids have never been to the dentist before, so they don’t know what to expect,” Julie Vaughn, coordinator of the event, said. “But, by the time they leave, they’re smiling, and they’ve had fun.”

The children are hand-picked by counselors, teachers or school nurses to receive free teeth cleaning, extractions and other dental procedures at the technical college.

An army of 85 volunteers devoted their time to the event, including 12 dentists from the Northern District of Georgia Dental Association, 52 children and staff from Eagle Ranch and over a dozen students from Lanier Tech’s dental assistant and hygiene programs.

Vaughn said around 20 local businesses gave both dental hygiene products and monetary donations to make the event happen.

Kayla Vickers, a student in the dental assistant program, said in addition to offering free services, volunteers spend the day educating students on basic dental hygiene.

“Everybody gets a toothbrush and toothpaste,” Vickers said. “We just try to teach them what they need to do to prevent having to come back here. It can be sad, but it’s great that we get to do something for the community.”

The Give Kids A Smile event in Hall was started by Julie Vaughn and her husband Dr. Ryan Vaughn. It’s one of many that take place around the nation through the American Dental Association.

Dr. Heather McGee said she remembers when the event was first hosted in Dr. Vaughn’s dental office. Her dental practice was next door to his, so they would work together.

“It started small,” McGee said. “We had a tent set up in the parking lot, and we’d pass the kids from his office to my office. It was crazy.”

McGee said although she has fun spending time with the other dentists and volunteers, most of the day’s joy comes from solving children’s dental problems.

“I love being able to help the kids who don’t get to have this, especially the ones that walk in, and you know they’re hurting,” she said. It’s amazing that they go to school every day. I enjoy being able to take care of some of that, so they can get through their day.”

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