Philadelphia dental hygienist helps spread healthy smiles during pandemic

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Jess Morgan of South Philadelphia has been working for five years as a pediatric dental hygienist, and she said she loves working with children.

"I love just like teaching them how to come to the dentist, how to sit in the chair, how to lay back, count their teeth. We brush their teeth and we also get to teach them good oral habits," she said.

With the pandemic in 2020, dentist offices were some of the first places to close. Morgan found herself out of work for months and looking for ways to fill her time.

"In the beginning, we started out by volunteering with our church, City Light, and giving meals to our neighbors. And we're like, 'if our neighbors are in need of food, what else could they need?" she asked.

What they needed was something that Morgan had easy access to: dental supplies. So the non-profit, Jess' Kind Little Smiles, came to life.

"We started putting together dental kits where we quickly had access to that, and we just felt that everyone deserves to have access to a toothbrush," she said.

Each kit included that much-needed toothbrush, floss and toothpaste.

"We would add them to the meal boxes that we were handing out. It quickly turned into other organizations asking for these kits," she said. "The reason that we're partnering with food companies is because if we lack access to food, there's a link between also poor oral health."

So far Jess' Kind Little Smiles has donated almost 6,000 kits with the goal of reaching 10,000 by the end of the year. She eventually wants to spread healthy smiles throughout other countries with a new idea using an eco-friendly kit with dental products made from recycled plastic.

"The dental kits that we hand out not only give people a toothbrush, but it also just sees that someone else cares for them," she said. "I truly believe just helping people is giving them a smile."

After all, she said, we all smile in the same language.

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