GREENCASTLE -- On Feb. 5, the American Dental Association's Give Kids a Smile Program was successful in providing a national effort to raise awareness of the importance of access to dental care for all children.
Dr. John Hennette and his team of Greencastle Pediatric Dentistry, which has been a participant in the program since its inception in 2003, was unable to provide care for the children of Putnam County during that time due to snow day school cancellations.
The delay will be rectified with a belated Give Kids a Smile Program for eligible children in the county on April 30 at his office. Dr. Hennette and his team of volunteers will provide children who have been screened with examinations, X-rays, cleanings, sealants, fillings and dental hygiene instructions.
Last year, more than 44,560 dental team members nationwide participated in the program. Nearly one in four children aged two to 11 has untreated cavities in their baby teeth, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While poor diet, drinks and oral hygiene certainly play a role, cavities are usually caused by a disease called caries, which is five times more common than asthma.
The National Institute of Health reports that 80 percent of tooth decay is in just 25 percent of children, primarily from low-income families. Public health programs such as Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program are supposed to help underserved children, but utilization rates are low.
"Many children enrolled in Medicaid receive no dental services throughout the year," Dr. Hennette said. "With Give Kids a Smile, we can help some children get the dental care they need, but a one-day event will never be enough. This event is not a cure-all."
Due to the need for signed parental permission and other documentation, most Give Kids a Smile events can only see children who have registered in advance, in most cases through school nurses or officials, social service clubs and agencies.