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Bright Smiles Lead to Healthy Futures

Hunt School of Dental Medicine students have also been on a mission to help the community the school calls home through two educational events at the Texas Tech Dental Oral Health Clinic catered exclusively to children.

In November 2022, first- and second-year Hunt School of Dental Medicine students teamed up for Neighborhood Smiles Day. During the event, they provided free basic dental services to third- through fifth-grade students from Zavala Elementary School, which is also in the 79905 ZIP code.

Then during National Children's Dental Health Month in February, the clinic invited 60 students from the school back for the Give Kids a Smile® event. Dental students, who see students in a clinical setting as early as their first semester, provided over 120 hours of services, including cleanings, exams and necessary treatments to children who may lack regular access to dental care.

“These children need to be seen,” said one dental student. “We’re ready to step up.

Studies show that in U.S. schools, over 51 million hours of classroom time are lost annually due to largely preventable oral health conditions. This issue disproportionately affects socioeconomically disadvantaged children, such as those living in underserved communities along the U.S.-Mexico border and surrounding TTUHSC El Paso.

In addition to providing vital dental care, both Neighborhood Smiles Day and Give Kids a Smile® also featured engaging educational activities designed to help children understand the importance of maintaining good oral health.

“The dental students were very nice and made me excited to sit down,” said fourth-grader Adyani Duarte on Neighborhood Smiles Day. “It got better as it went on. My favorite part was learning about brushing.”

On the same day, fifth-grader Dante Roland said he made a connection with his student dentist, James White, over a love of sports and couldn’t wait to get home and show his parents his dental report card.

“It was weird feeling the stuff they put in my mouth, but it was fun,” said Roland. “James was my dentist and he was cool. He likes football like I do.”

Several other children said they found the experience not at all scary. Most said they would encourage their parents and siblings to schedule regular visits with the dentist.

"I had so much fun!” was the resounding response from Zavala Elementary student Michael Hernandez during the Give Kids a Smile® event. “The dentist was so nice and explained everything to me in a way I could understand. I learned a lot about taking care of my teeth. I can't wait to go back to dentist."

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has designated El Paso as a Dental Health Professional Shortage Area due to its poor access to oral health care. Young children are even more vulnerable to poor oral health since they are in the process of losing baby teeth and growing permanent adult teeth.



It’s only through your encouragement, contributions and endorsements that TTUHSC El Paso can develop and build the Woody L. Hunt School of Dental Medicine. The creation of this program will have a positive impact on the dental and overall health of the Borderplex for generations to come. For more information about how you can help, please contact or or visit

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