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Local dentists provide free smiles for area students

Cheney and Westwood students take part in national Give Kids a Smile day


John McCallum

Inland Center for Contemporary Dentistry's Dr. Jacob Ridl performs some sealant work on Westwood Middle School student Dessa Phillips. Ridl was assisted by Sara King as part of Give Kids a Smile Day last Friday.

A pair of local dentist offices were filled with smiles last Friday, albeit smiles of the "Open wide" type.

The office of doctors Marshall Gibbs and Bob Stockton, along with the Inland Center for Contemporary Dentistry office of doctors Richard Roccanova and Jacob Ridl, took part in the annual Give Kids a Smile Day by providing free dental services to students from Cheney School District. Twenty students, 10 from Cheney Middle School, nine from Westwood Middle School and one high school student hung out in waiting rooms and filled dental chairs to receive free screenings, cleanings, fillings and more over the space of a couple hours.

"We just try to get in as much as we can in the time allotted," Ridl said.

The program, started by the American Dental Association in 2003, serves approximately 450,000 children each year through more than 1,500 events and with the help of more than 40,000 volunteers, according to a press release from the Spokane organization Communities in Schools. The organization helped coordinate this year's event, with site coordinator's at Cheney and Westwood middle schools arranging for everything from transportation to selecting qualified students.

Communities in Schools program quality director and current Westwood Middle School site coordinator Alise Mnati said students are selected through referrals from teachers and counselors and consist mainly of those who do not have insurance. Some of the students had not seen a dentist in over two years.

Community in Schools also provides weekly backpacks of food and hygiene kits to students in need at the schools. Mnati said she also obtained a referral list from a dental hygienist from the Toothsavers program that visited the schools in the fall, seeing over 60 students at Westwood, to provide free cleanings.

"We know which kids are in need in our schools," Mnati said. "We try to make sure the basic needs of students are met."

This is the fourth year Inland Center for Contemporary Dentistry has been involved in Give Kids a Smile. With the focus on teenagers this year, most of what Ridl said they were seeing Friday was typical cleanings and needs for sealants or a filling or two.

"Just what they can tolerate," Ridl said. "Whatever is beneficial for them."

If the exams reveal additional work might be needed, referrals can also be made, Ridl said, whether at their office or with another specialist.

"We follow up as best we can," he said. "It's a really cool program."

Over at Gibbs and Stockton's office, Gibbs said that while this was the first year for him doing the program in Cheney, he had taken part in Give Kids a Smile while in practice in Wisconsin last year. His office ended up seeing over 40 kids and donating about $12,000 in dental work.

"It was an exhausting day when I was done," Gibbs said. "But it's good for the community. It's one of the ways we can give back."

According to Communities in Schools, the two Cheney offices combined donated time and services totalling over $20,000. Mnati said Inland Center for Contemporary Dentistry actually arranged to see one female Westwood student a week early because she was experiencing debilitating toothaches and couldn't wait for Give Kids a Smile day.

The program can sometimes come with heartaches though. Mnati relayed the story of one boy who, because his parents couldn't afford the root canal work, had two of his front, adult teeth pulled, leaving a gap in his smile.

When told he had been selected to attend Give Kids a Smile day, Mnati said he actually thought he was going to receive a new smile – new front teeth and all – and was disappointed when he found out it was only for screenings and other work. Mnati worked with Roccanova and Ridl's office, and arrangements have been made to have the young man come back this Friday for a fitting for a partial denture replacing the missing teeth.

John McCallum can be reached at


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