February has been designated as Children’s Dental Health Month by the American Dental Association (ADA). This year’s theme is, “Join the Tooth Team to brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste and clean between your teeth for a healthy smile.” Today, Give Kids A Smile is the ADA Foundation’s signature access to oral health care program for underserved children with events taking place throughout the year. These events kick off annually near the first Friday in February, which is Give Kids A Smile Day.
The ADA Foundation’s Give Kids A Smile program, launched nationally by the American Dental Association in 2003, has provided free oral health services for more than 5.5 million underserved children. Over the years, volunteers, including an estimated 10,000 dentists and 30,000 other dental team members, have provided services that include oral health education, screenings, and dental treatment.
Your Community Services Committee, led by Drs. Monica Wu and Sarah Murray, and supported by Community Services Coordinator Michael Tran, has put together a fantastic program for the SCCDS this year. Participants will visit 47 Santa Clara County schools and 7 Boys and Girls Clubs on February 7, 8 and 9.
Volunteer dentists will screen students for acute dental needs. Organizers will identify those needing urgent care who do not already have a dental home, and match them with volunteer member dentists. Surprisingly, many children in our community do not have basic oral home care products, so volunteers will give toothbrushes, toothpaste and other products to the school nurses to give to these children. Our members and their staff members will also demonstrate oral hygiene techniques and distribute dental hygiene information. In addition, the volunteers will have the opportunity to interact with the school nurses and faculties.
A Grassroots Effort
The ADA recognized that this grassroots effort had great potential to raise awareness nationally about the importance of oral health to overall health, and about the overwhelming need that exists among millions of children who go without care. Give Kids A Smile evolved into a nationwide program with the collaboration of the ADA, corporate support and local dental societies.
Give Kids A Smile remains a critical piece of the ADA’s “Action for Dental Health,” a nationwide, community-based movement aimed at ending the dental health crisis facing America today. Therefore, it addresses this crisis in three distinct areas:
- Providing care now to people who are suffering from untreated disease.
- Strengthening and expanding the public and private safety net.
- Bringing disease prevention and education into communities.
“Access to care” will always be the greatest obstacle to preventing and treating oral disease in children. Because oral health is directly correlated with general health, good home care and oral intake management will improve children’s quality of life for years to come. Thank you to all the SCCDS dentists and their staffs for volunteering their time, talent, and treasure for Give Kids A Smile!
Ned L. Nix, DDS, MA