About 70 Aiken county children are expected for the annual "Give Kids a Smile" program, which returns with a revamped format Friday. The children will receive free screenings, cleaning and other basic services through the project, which will be held at Aiken Technical College's health sciences building from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. In the past, dentists performed additional work at the event for kids who needed it. This year, however, the dental hygienists will take center stage, handling the cleaning, sealants and x-rays. "We've gotten dentists to agree to take 'x' number of kids and treat them at their offices," said Aiken dentist Dr. Charlie Wyont. "This way, we can get a lot more accomplished. We've had more dentists to agree to get these kids to a better level of health." "Give Kids A Smile" is a national project involving the S.C. Dental Association in coordination with the dental education departments of the technical colleges of South Carolina, the Medical University of South Carolina and Palmetto Health Hospital. The service provides needed dental care to eligible children, targeting those who don't have private insurance and do not qualify for Medicaid. "We want those kids who don't have access to care," said Wyont. The project also provides Aiken Technical College dental assisting students with a valuable service learning opportunity. They will volunteer during the clinic. Wyont's hygienists, Beth Lynce and Michelle Shackford, will participate in the program Friday. "I enjoy helping out the kids," Lynce said. "These are very good kids that come in there, and some have never been to a dentist before." Angela Odum, a staff member in Wyont's office who coordinates the event, expressed her appreciation to dentists who have donated supplies and provided contributions for snacks for the children. "It's very rewarding to see the results and helping children who can't get the dental care they need," Odum said. A number of dentists have adopted Aiken County public schools where they provide screenings. If a kid arrives at school with a toothache and has no regular access to care, a school nurse can call the dentist and arrange treatment. As for those children who need immediate care after "Give Kids a Smile," sometimes dentists will continue working with them. "There are some kids who have come to my office that we still see," Wyont said. "You get attached to them and can't let them go." Contact Rob Novit at rnovit@aikenstandard.com.