GREENFIELD — Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis isn’t a place kids would typically go to visit the dentist.
But Feb. 11, the basketball arena turns dental office, offering free services to underprivileged children. And some local volunteers are helping make the Indianapolis-based event possible.
Jennifer Platts, a lifelong Greenfield resident, works for Team Smile, a national organization that partners with professional sports teams to provide dental services to needy kids.
For the second time, she’s organized the event at the fieldhouse. Last year, the event helped nearly 250 students from Indianapolis Public Schools and attracted several local students and dentists to participate as volunteers.
Platts said she hopes the event will happen annually, serving the same groups of students to treat their dental needs over time, giving them the healthiest teeth possible.
“It’s a great program,” Platts said. “And it keeps getting bigger and bigger.”
Local dentist Greg Werner plans to be back at the arena to provide dentistry for a second time.
He likes the event because it helps provide dental services to children who otherwise might not get it. And besides, the event is fun, he said. Last year, the students were able to meet some Pacers basketball players and hang out with Boomer, the Pacers mascot.
“I like the event, and I also think it’s pretty cool,” he said. “A lot of these kids were in pain, and they couldn’t get (dental services).”
The volunteers do everything from cleaning teeth to filling cavities. They also create treatment plans for the students and will work through them each year the event occurs.
“What we do is we prioritize their treatment,” Platts said. “You just kind of keep beating on, so by the time they’re in sixth grade and going to junior high, they’re perfect.”
Team Smile brings more than $500,000 of dental equipment to each event. Last year, the volunteers did nearly $150,000 of dental work.
Platts has worked in dental offices for most of her career and knows how important teeth are to overall health.
That’s why she joined Team Smile and continues to plan the events.
A tooth infection can lead to hospitalization or even death, and as a mother, she can’t imagine not being able to treat an infection her child has.
Cost should not be a barrier to having a clean, healthy mouth, she added.
“They already have all these struggles, the kids that are in these under-served areas. And if we don’t look in our backyard and start taking care of our neighbors, it’s not going to be a good outlook,” Platts said.
“It’s sad, but we’re a society that judges on appearance.”
Alexa Jeffries, who graduated from Greenfield-Central High School in 2014, participated in last year’s event and is looking forward to doing so again.
Jeffries said she enjoys participating because she said she feels like she’s making a difference in the community.
“It’s a fun way to say, ‘Your teeth are important,’” she said.
“I don’t want to be a dentist, but it’s still fun to go and give back. It’s a small, little part, but every part counts.”
For more information or to get involved, residents should contact Platts at firstname.lastname@example.org.