MINNEAPOLIS — This wasn't the average trip to the dentist.
No, this was a special visit for 300-plus kids, who went through a one-stop shop that TeamSmile created last week at U.S. Bank Stadium.
The organization travels across the country and partners with professional sports teams to host all-day dental clinics.
"We throw dental tailgate parties," said John McCarthy, the Executive Director of TeamSmile. "We work with teams in the NFL, NBA, MLB, MLS and NHL … we provide free dental care for children in need throughout the country through partnerships with these professional sports teams.
"In essence, we try to make dental care cool and fun and exciting for children," McCarthy added. "Just take the fear out of dentistry. And in a great stadium like U.S. Bank Stadium … we're doing that today."
TeamSmile partnered with Park Dental and the Vikings to make sure the kids were taken care of in the Delta Sky 360° Club, which is just steps from the field and near where players walk out for pregame warm-ups.
The goal is to reach children who may not take regular trips to the dentist.
"We're teaming up with the Vikings and TeamSmile to provide care for these kids who may not see dental care throughout the year," said Park Dental President Chris Steele. "It's a unique opportunity for us to help them out.
"TeamSmile does a great job setting it up … we're just kind of jumping in and filling the spaces," Steele continued.
"There's always a huge need," Steele later added. "And that's one the things the dental community struggles with … we're always looking for ways and access points."
Vikings Executive Vice President & Chief Revenue Officer John Penhollow said the organization was proud to partner with TeamSmile and Park Dental for the inaugural event.
"It's another opportunity for the Vikings to get into the community," Penhollow said. "Unfortunately, this has been a hard stretch here with the pandemic, so dental care for both children and adults has been something that some have avoided."
The children in attendance received the full treatment, from check-in to X-rays, plus an exam and visits with a hygienist and dentist.
And professionals from Park Dental were on site in case any extensive work was needed.
"Once we diagnose what they need, we're able to treat them here," McCarthy said. "Whether they need a cavity or root canal or an extraction, we're able to do that on-site here at U.S. Bank Stadium.
"And it's completely free," McCarthy said. "We just want to take care of the children."
The health aspect was just one part of the visit, though. The young people also were treated to arts and crafts, plus the chance to run around and play catch on the U.S. Bank Stadium turf.
And their smiles were even wider when Justin Jefferson showed up to hang out along with Ihmir Smith-Marsette, Troy Dye and Camryn Bynum.
Was Jefferson a fan of the dentist as a kid?
"Absolutely not," Jefferson said with a laugh. "I know how uncomfortable it is, but this environment alone lets them ease up a little bit and lets them have fun, but also get their dental care."
"Your teeth are important," Jefferson said. "You've got to have a nice smile."
Smith-Marsette added: "It's very impactful. They don't know that yet, but looking back I know they'll say that this meant a lot."