EGCC makes kids smile

STEUBENVILLE – Five graduates of the Eastern Gateway Community College dental assisting program returned to their alma mater this week to help with the 12th-annual Give Kids A Smile program.

“I graduated with a degree in dental assisting in 2008 and am now working for Dr. Rick Zambito of Wheeling. I am also an instructor in the program here at Eastern Gateway, so I have a special interest in the program. I actually assisted when I was a student here, and I believe very strongly in this program,” explained Megan Ciacci of Wheeling.

Ciacci was joined Wednesday by Jen Cottis of Wintersville, Brittany Champion of Irondale and Jamie Pepperling of Amsterdam for teeth cleaning and helping the dentists perform check-ups. The dental hygenists also instructed the approximately 60 patients on the proper way to brush their teeth.

A fifth EGCC graduate, Kelly Barker, is scheduled to work at the Give Kids A Smile program today.

“This is a chance for us to give back to the community. We have a population in the area who need dental care. And, this is a chance to teach the kids about right foods to eat and the bad food to avoid for their oral health which can also affect their general health. It is interesting for us because we were once students learning about this and now we are on the other side of the program. And, we make sure our patients are well taken care of this week,” related Ciacci.

“Everything we do on Wednesday and Thursday is preventive care, and then on Friday we see some of the kids again for restorative work,” she added.

Hoi Wah Black of Hammondsville has been bringing her four children to the Give Kids A Smile program since her niece, Brittany Champion, was taking the dental assisting courses at EGCC.

“This is our fourth year here because my niece introduced us to the program. This really helps us out because my husband is a disabled military veteran and we don’t have dental insurance. I like the program because my kids get their teeth cleaned and checked and the people here really make the patients feel comfortable,” said Hoi Wah Black.

Justus Black, a second-grader at Stanton Elementary School, said the dental hygenists, “helped me learn how to properly clean my teeth. I didn’t have any cavities last year and I don’t think I will have any this year.”

“He used to be afraid of going to the dentists but the staff here are so friendly,” said his mother.

According to Kathy L. Woodard, director of public service for the Ohio Dental Association, “Many children and adults lack access to dental care, which is a critical component in achieving good oral health. Members of the Ohio Dental Association respond to this need through Give Kids a Smile and other access-to-care programs. Since 2003, Ohio dentists and other volunteers have given more than $10,230,000 in free dental services to more than 194,000 Ohio children through the Give Kids a Smile Ohio program.”

Joelle Bucci of Wintersville brought her three children to the Give Kids A Smile program Wednesday, “because it is an extra opportunity to get their teeth checked.”

“I take them to the dentist on a regular basis but I like this free extra chance to have their teeth cleaned and checked. They are really good here about explaining the fluoride treatment. My son, Guy, was a little nervous but they told him how everything would be done,” remarked Joelle Bucci.

“I’m not excited about coming here, but I can tell my teeth are clean and I don’t have any cavities,” said Jillian Bucci with a smile.

“Many children enrolled in Medicaid receive no dental service in throughout the year. Dentists can’t do this alone. With Give Kids A Smile, we can help some children get the dental care they need, but the annual event will never be enough. Our event is not a cure-all, it’s a wake-up call. Children’s oral health is everyone’s business – not just dentists,” declared Donna Robinson, dental assisting program consultant.

“We need to participate as a community and as a nation. We need to find the political will to solve this problem. It won’t happen overnight. But if enough people start working on it, it will happen,” Robinson stated.

(Gossett can be contacted at