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DENTAL STUDENTS HELP LOW-INCOME KIDS SMILE WITH PRIDE.

Byline: Patricia Farrell Aidem Staff Writer

CANYON COUNTRY - It was all too much for a 5-year-old.

Little Christian Montoyo fit the bill for Friday's free dentistry program for 100 children from low-income families. The paperwork was filled out. He was this close to hopping in the dentist's chair.

Then came the tears.

``We're just going to count your teeth,'' said USC dental student Kimberly Foon, trying to cajole the youngster into her chair. ``I promise it won't hurt.''

Three of the 20 students from the University of Southern California's Mobile Dental Clinic tried to get Christian to agree to an exam.

Student dentist Michael Murasko spoke in Spanish to the little boy urging him to watch as another student, Julius Kong, worked on a pig-tailed little girl.

But it wasn't going to happen ... this time.

Christian sobbed and clung to his mother unaware that behind his back volunteers with the Santa Clarita Foundation for Children's Dental Health, which sponsored the clinic, were making plans.

Instead of giving the exam on Friday, the foundation will send him later to one of the private-practice dentists in town who participate in the organization's effort to ensure families with limited incomes and no dental insurance get the care their children need.

Other than a tear or two, the clinic on the grounds of a Canyon Country church went well.

Parents of children previously screened by dentists who visit local schools signed in, then gathered under a big yellow-and-white-striped tent to fill out their paperwork. Two by two, the children sat in the exam chairs in one specially outfitted motor home, then lined up outside a second one for X-rays.

Through the coming week they will return for fillings, sealants and extractions.

``They just poke at you and look around in there,'' 9-year-old Natalie Franco said as she waited in line at the X-ray station. ``My brother has a big hole in his tooth.''

Dentist Randall Niederkohr, director of USC's mobile clinic, had 20 students, three faculty members and three dental assistants at the clinic.

``It's a really important outreach,'' Niederkohr said. ``Some of these kids have never seen a dentist. Some of the cases we see are urgent.''

CAPTION(S):

photo

Photo:

Felipe Patino gets an exam from USC student Diana Akopyan during the Mobile Dental Clinic's visit to Canyon Country. About 100 children got the free exams Friday.

Hans Gutknecht/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jun 1, 2002
Words:399
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