On Friday, more than 2,500 children from local low-income families across Indiana will receive free dental services ranging from cleanings, examinations, fillings, sealants and other dental procedures as part of the Seventh Annual National Give Kids A Smile Day (GKAS).
Locally, Greencastle Pediatric is participating in this program. They will offer their free services to identified students on Feb. 13 due to a scheduling conflict.
"Our office is usually able to treat 20 or so children on that day and will see through full mouth restorative health even if several visits are needed," said John Hennette, DDS of Greencastle Pediatrics.
The program, which was first launched in 2003 by the American Dental Association, gives children who do not have access to dental insurance free services including screenings, cleanings and fillings.
Students ages 16 and under in need of dental treatment but who are without dental insurance or are on Medicaid were identified by local school nurses. Their families were encouraged to call the GKAS hotline to schedule an appointment with a local volunteer office.
Several Head Start programs also identified students as needing immediate dental care and were referred to the closest GKAS volunteer.
Last year in Indiana, more than 1,183 dentists and dental teams provided over $540,000 in dental treatment to over 2,240 children.
This year, GKAS is once again expecting to reach $500,000 in treatment to over 2,500 children.
"My staff volunteers their day, which is very gratifying given this economic time," said Hennette.
Nearly one in four children, aged 2 to 11 years have untreated cavities in their baby teeth, according to the CDC. While poor diet and oral hygiene certainly play a role, cavities are actually caused by a disease called caries, which is five times more common than asthma.
"We hope the day will help draw attention to the importance of preventive dental care, especially for children," said IDA Executive Director Doug Bush. "Dental disease can be avoided when common-sense preventive measures are followed. We're hopeful that parents whose children are treated through Give Kids a Smile will follow up by establishing a 'dental home' for their families, where lasting relationships with dentists will keep them on the road to good dental health."
The National Institute of Health reports that 80 percent of tooth decay is found in just 25 percent of children, primarily from low-income families.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, by age 17 more than 7 percent of children have lost at least one permanent tooth to decay.
Cavities form when plaque, a sticky film of bacteria, produces acids that attack tooth enamel when a person eats or drinks foods containing sugars or starches. The sticky plaque keeps the acids in contact with teeth and after many attacks, the enamel breaks down and a cavity develops, according to the ADA.
Also, poverty and access to medical and dental insurance play an important role.
For more information about Give Kids a Smile 2009 contact your child's school nurse.