By Kim Grizzard
Saturday, January 26, 2013
A program that has provided free dental care to needy children for the last decade is examining ways to give children more reasons to smile.
Organizers of the local Give Kids A Smile Day, scheduled for Friday, hope to widen the event to include children’s overall health.
“The (East Central) Dental Society is interested in broadening the focus of Give Kids A Smile to make it more inclusive of the whole child and not just their teeth,” Pitt County Health Director Dr. John Morrow said. “How do we broaden the focus, not just about dental care but about other child issues and help bring resources and focus the community on pediatric health issues?”
Give Kids A Smile, which began when two Missouri dentists gave free dental care to about 400 children, now serves about 400,000 children a year nationwide. Since 2003, dentists and other oral health care professionals volunteering for Give Kids A Smile have given more than $11 million in free services to children in North Carolina.
More than 1,000 children have received dental treatment through the local Give Kids A Smile Day. Each year, the event offers free cleanings, dental X-rays, fluoride treatments, sealants, fillings and extractions to about 100 area children.
Pediatric dentist Dr. Jasper L. Lewis Jr., whose office hosts volunteer dentists across the county for the event, said there has been a growing concern among Dental Society members that children who do not regularly see a dentist may also have other health care needs that are not being addressed. So the Dental Society is working with partnering agencies — the Pitt County Health Department, the East Carolina University School of Dental Medicine and ECU’s Brody School of Medicine — to explore ways to intervene.
“Good dental health is a part of the whole child, but it’s not the whole child,” Lewis said. “When kids come into Give Kids A Smile, you have the opportunity to ask questions such as, ‘Have you had your shots?’ We have a forum here that can help in more than just teeth.”
In St. Louis, Mo., where Give Kids A Smile began in 2002, the effort has grown to include screening children for various health issues, such as vision or hearing impairments.
Locally, Morrow said, any expanded services this year are likely to take the form of informational displays designed to inform parents about issues such as immunizations, breastfeeding, child nutrition and Medicaid enrollment.
Dr. Greg Chadwick, dean of East Carolina University’s School of Dental Medicine, said such association between dentists and primary care physicians is important, especially in rural areas. Chadwick said the dental school already is seeing the benefit of interprofessional collaboration in Ahoskie, where the school’s first dental Service Learning Center operates alongside Roanoke-Chowan Community Health Center. The two offices see many of the same patients.
Chadwick, who was president of the American Dental Association when Give Kids A Smile Day was adopted nationally, said the program could benefit from a similar collaboration.
“Hopefully, dentists will always be on the leading edge of this,” Chadwick said. “(But) I think we’ll begin to see more folks get involved in Give Kids A Smile than just dentists.
“It’s still Give Kids A Smile, but it’s not necessarily Give Kids A Smile because we filled a tooth,” he said. “It’s Give Kids A Smile because they’re healthy.”
The American Dental Association’s Give Kids A Smile Day will be held Friday. Free dental care is available for children ages 5-15 who are in need of dental care and who do not have a dentist of record. Parents or guardians are responsible for transportation and must be present during dental care. Registration is limited, and appointments are required. Call 902-2305 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday to register.
Contact Kim Grizzard at email@example.com or at 252-329-9578.
via The Daily Reflector.