On Thursday, dentists and hygienists from all over Indiana teamed up at Lucas Oil Stadium to bring dental care to underprivileged kids.
TeamSmile brought the stuff. Local dentists brought the staff. And together, they treated kids from Cold Spring School and Global Prep Academy with dental cleaning, education, and treatment at no cost.
“We get the honor and privilege of throwing dental tailgate parties,” said John McCarthy, Executive Director of TeamSmile. “The idea is to take the fear out of dentistry, to make this cool. So when the kids go home, they’re going to remember when they came to Lucas Oil Stadium and they met alumni players from the Indianapolis Colts and they were dancing with the cheerleaders and they got their faces painted.”
Still, there were some nerves and even some tears when they sat down in the chair.
Dr. Allison Biehle from Biehle Family Dentistry in North Vernon heard about the event from a dentist who volunteered last year.
“There are so many times I’ve wanted to do mission trips and I haven’t been able to. But I always think, ‘Why not help people right here in our own backyard?’”
And that’s what she did on Thursday.
“A little kid coming in to get worked on, maybe it’s their first time and they’re scared. I want to hold their hand, I want to be there for them and make them feel better and at ease if I can.”
Former defensive lineman Chukie Nwokorie held the hand of one young boy and used a locker room pep talk to help him through his treatment.
“There were four things she had to do – top and bottom on both sides. I just used football terms with him. You’ve got four quarters – you’re half way to halftime, and the last two – third quarter, fourth quarter. He calmed down a little bit,” he said. “I have kids of my own, so it felt good to give him that encouragement and let him know that an adult is here with him.”
“He’ll remember that for the rest of his life,” said former wide receiver Bill Brooks. “A Colts player helping him go through it.”
Because along with the excitement of visiting Lucas Oil Stadium, playing on the field, meeting players and cheerleaders, and goofing around with Blue – for many of the kids, it was also conquering fear.
“These kiddos were probably coming in not really sure what they were going to get today and are leaving not afraid of going to the dentist,” said Amy Stankiewicz with Prime Smile. “So when they walk into our offices, they’ll be ready to go without fear.”
With locations in Irvington and Eagledale, Prime Smile is a Medicaid practice exclusively for kids. They joined the Colts and TeamSmile as a community partner hoping to help some of the kids find a dental home.
“A very small percentage of people with Medicaid actually go to the dentist and actually use that benefit,” she said. “It’s a really good benefit.”
And that’s part of the mission of TeamSmile – to raise awareness about the importance of dental hygiene, to educate, and to send the kids home with healthy habits they can share.
“They really are good kids. They’re not trying to fight us. They know the importance of it,” Biehle said. “They’re showing a lot of trust and a lot of maturity, even as young as they are.”
“That shows you what these kids are made of,” said Brooks.
It also shows what their city is made of.
“The Colts, TeamSmile, dentists, hygienists, Lucas Oil Stadium, the convention center – everyone coming together to provide a service for individuals who would never have had that service before,” he said. “To me, that’s what it’s all about.”
On Thursday at Lucas Oil Stadium, everybody was on the same team.
And they all went home with smiles.