AIKEN - Wearing a bright red sweat suit, Kiara Williams climbed into the tan leather reclining chair Friday and leaned back under the bright, white lights of the dental hygienists' lamp.
The 9-year-old said she didn't want to be scared of her first dentist. Her mom, Serice Lundy-Williams, stood behind her chair for support.
"Look, the toothbrush is just like the one you use at home, except you have SpongeBob," Mrs. Lundy-Williams said.
Kiara was one of about 90 Aiken-area children who received free dental care through the Give a Kid a Smile project at Aiken Technical College. An additional 54 children from McBean Elementary School received care Friday at Medical College of Georgia School of Dentistry through a similar program, with 21 getting restorative treatments ranging from fillings to stainless steel crowns.
Dr. Charlie Wyont started the program a little more than three years ago for children without insurance or Medicaid coverage. The program uses Aiken Tech's dental assistant training facilities.
About 60 volunteers from Aiken Tech's dental assistant program and nearby dental offices performed X-rays, cleaned teeth, filled cavities and handed out balloons and treat bags. Even the tooth fairy visited the children.
"It is really exciting to watch kids come in who don't have coverage and then watch them walk out with a smile on their face," said Amanda Weathersbee, a senior dental assistant student. "Some of these kids might not go to the dentist until this time next year."
Mrs. Lundy-Williams said the clinic was a very big help monetarily, and it also eased her three children's fears of the dentist.
"I got a Superman toothbrush and a balloon," said her son B.J., 6. "They took pictures of my teeth, and that was fun."
And before Kiara climbed from the chair, she received a nod that she had no cavities and could celebrate a successful first visit with her brother.
Reach Julia Sellers at (803) 648-1395, ext. 106, or firstname.lastname@example.org.