“They say it’s a jungle out there, but for one night, it’s a jungle in here!”

(courtesy Blinn College)

Blinn College District dental hygiene instructor Dana Wood perfectly sums up the theme of this year’s Give Kids a Smile (GKAS) event, which provided more than $18,000 in donated care to 68 children. From cheetahs to zebras and everything in between, safari décor transformed Blinn’s Dental Hygiene Clinic into a place of adventure to help put the evening’s young patients at ease.

“I believe there is a big educational need with children to have a good first experience at the dentist and to not be intimidated,” said second-year dental hygiene student Martha Wilkins.

One of three co-chairs overseeing Blinn’s 14th year participating in the Give Kids a Smile (GKAS) event providing free dental services to children, Wilkins knows firsthand the impact she can have.

“As a kid, taking care of my teeth was never prioritized and I had silver caps everywhere,” said Wilkins. “Because of my experience, I want to work in pediatric dentistry. My goal is to be a hygienist who takes the time to educate my patients so they do the proper home care as children and prevent future disease.”

In addition to dental care for children, Blinn’s Associate Degree Nursing (ADN) Program provided basic health exams for parents and caregivers including blood pressure and weight checks, cholesterol screenings, and glucose screenings. New this year was Blinn’s mobile health clinic bus, which was on site to provide hearing and eye exams. 

(courtesy Blinn College)

“Our ADN Program is doing a wonderful job providing health education information and services to parents so they also get some access to care that they normally wouldn’t have,” Wood said.

Along with dental treatments, children enjoyed crafts, door prizes, and each left with a goody bag filled with tips and tools to promote proper oral health care. To date, Blinn’s participation in GKAS has totaled approximately $280,000 in donated care.

A national initiative of the American Dental Association, GKAS supplies oral health care to local children who lack access to regular dental care. The event is coordinated, planned, and executed by Blinn dental hygiene students as a component of their community dentistry course.

“One of the things we really like to foster is the desire for our students to give back to their community within their profession,” Wood said. “We let them plan this program from the very beginning to the finish so that when they leave Blinn they can replicate this program and give back to other communities in need.”

Blinn has the longest running GKAS program among U.S. community colleges, so it’s no surprise the event feels like a homecoming for many of the volunteer hygienists and dentists who return year after year to help make the initiative a success.

As a complement to the dental care children receive during the GKAS event, a recent $10,000 donation will provide follow-up treatments for children needing additional procedures, like cavity fillings.

“We have a committee together of local dentists who are starting with the logistics side of having a ‘smile factory’ where the kids will return to our clinic and get the restorative care they need,” Wood said. “This is the first year we’ve had the monetary means to try and make this happen.”

As appointments wind down, Wilkins smiles as she watches children giggle when entertainers dressed as Rapunzel and Spider-Man stop by for a visit. After a day of being pulled in different directions, she takes a moment to survey the scene and reflect on what she’ll remember.

“It’s so rewarding to carry on the legacy that Blinn has in the community of holding Give Kids a Smile for the last 14 years,” she said. “As someone just starting out in the field, it’s humbling to watch the area’s dental professionals come together and be so supportive. This entire experience is about giving back and making a difference, which is exactly what motivated me to become a dental hygienist.”

In addition to GKAS, the Blinn Dental Hygiene Program offers discounted cleanings and screenings for the general public. These sessions are $20 per person and include dental cleanings, x-rays, examinations, fluoride, oral cancer inspections, and sealants.

For more information about a clinic visit, call 979-209-7283 or visit

To learn more about Blinn’s Dental Hygiene Program, visit

(Story courtesy Blinn Information)

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