Ukrainian refugees receive free dental care during UAA Children’s Day

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) – Disney music blasted inside the University of Alaska Anchorage dental clinic on Friday morning as a parade of dental hygiene students — dressed in tooth and toothpaste costumes — pranced around performing preventive dental care on children.

“It’s our second annual Children’s Day,” Program Director Carri Shamburger said. “We are providing oral health care for children in youth, ages four to age 17 today.”

On Friday, the program provided free preventive dental care to children between the ages of four and 17. Dental services included exams, X-rays, cleanings, fluoride and sealants. This year, the program also extended services to Ukrainian refugees within the community.

“Anchorage especially is very diverse, and to have the opportunity to work with a different culture is always good for our students to be able to go out in the community and provide great oral health care,” Shamburger said.

They were able to provide assistance for 15 refugees who fled to the United States after the war with Russia tore through the country.

“They don’t get medical or dental health. So, here at the UAA we can help those patients that don’t have dental. That way we can, you know, improve their smiles,” said UAA dental hygiene student Nadia Tolmacheva.

It’s a topic that hits home for Tolmacheva, the fourth-semester dental hygiene student. When Tolmacheva was five years old, her family moved to the U.S. from Ukraine. To date, she still has many loved ones back in Ukraine. Throughout the summer, Tolmacheva worked to help support refugees. On Friday, she got a chance to do that in a special way.

“So, I worked today on my niece. She is 4 years old,” Tolmacheva said. “She was a little, tiny girl but she did so good. She let me clean her teeth and I was so happy to do that.”

Karyna and her other niece Yana, who is six years old, both attended the free clinic on Friday. The two sisters fled from Ukraine and arrived in the U.S. two and a half months ago. Tolmacheva was able to help them by providing free dental care.

“I’m Ukrainian too and it’s my people and I am so happy to be able to help my friends and family that arrived here in the United States,” Tolmacheva said.

While Friday might have been just a routine cleaning, it was a simple act that she was able to do to help their healing process, crafting a priceless smile.

“Smiling is always you know helps people stay positive and stay happy,” Tolmacheva said.

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