“You don’t have to travel overseas to find the problem. We have it right here in eastern North Carolina.”
Dr. Ron Perkin
chairman of pediatrics, ECU
By Kim Grizzard
Sunday, February 3, 2013
To kick off National Children’s Dental Health Month, more than 100 needy local children received free dental treatment, including 149 sealants, 68 fillings, 46 extractions and four crowns.
But one child left the 11th annual Give Kids A Smile Day with a different reason to smile. A volunteer dentist assessing the girl’s health history found that she had a serious heart condition that had gone untreated. For patients with such a condition, dental procedures could be life-threatening. But without medical insurance, the child’s mother said, she had been unable to see a doctor.
East Central Dental Society Give Kids A Smile Co-Chairman Dr. Lee Lewis contacted representatives at East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine, one of the partnering agencies, for help.
“We’re going to be able to get that child seen and established with a physician,” Lewis said, “and then we’ll be able to do the dental work.”
The case, Lewis said, speaks to the heart of a shift in direction for the local Give Kids A Smile. The event, which provided nearly $53,000 worth of free dental care to children on Friday, is working to broaden its focus on children’s health.
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.
“The last two years, we have really branched out, working in conjunction with the School of Dental Medicine, the School of Medicine and the Health Department,” he said. “(We have) taken this to more of a level of overall care of the children here in our county.”
Dr. Ron Perkin, chairman of pediatrics at ECU, said that for children who lack access to dental care, there are often gaps in other health care as well.
“You don’t have to travel overseas to find the problem,” he said. “We have it right here in eastern North Carolina.”
Hanna Jamadal, a native of India, brought her son, Aman, to Give Kids A Smile on Friday to have two teeth filled. It was the third time the boy had seen a dentist in his 11 years. On his first visit, his parents were told that the boy needed almost $6,000 worth of treatment. Jamadal said the family simply could not afford the care.
“Sometimes he was complaining about (pain), and I could just do Orajel (a pain-relieving gel),” she said. “There was nothing I could do.”
Jamadal is thankful for fillings and extractions provided by Give Kids A Smile. She wishes there were free events to provide care for families like hers who have no medical insurance and do not qualify for Medicaid.
Perkin said children represent the largest group of uninsured patients.
“We hear these stories, and we want to help,” he said. “We want to be able to provide the care. That’s why we’re here.”
More than 175 volunteers participated in Give Kids A Smile Day, from dentists and hygienists who performed procedures to ECU athletes, coaches and cheerleaders, who were there for hand holding and high fives.
More than a dozen ECU School of Dental Medicine students suited up for the event. Dr. Stuart D. Josell, DMD, the school’s chairman of pediatric dentistry and orthodontics, said a few students spent Give Kids A Smile Day at the school’s Service Learning Center in Ahoskie, where they taught schoolchildren about oral hygiene. But the majority of students, including Alex Crisp, participated in the Greenville event.
Crisp, 25, a second-year dental student, has been part of Give Kids A Smile for nearly half his life. The Burlington native, whose mother is a pediatric dentist, started volunteering in high school. For the last few years, he has made children laugh in his role as “Dr. Rabbitt,” a costumed character who fights the “Plaque Monster” with a giant toothbrush.
Crisp is eager for the day when he can assume a different role, working directly with patients.
“I like working with kids,” Crisp said. “You make a change in a child’s life, and the results are so long-lasting.”
Friday’s Give Kids A Smile made quite an impression on Connor Higdon.
“I’ve never, ever been to the dentist before,” Connor said. “I hope this is fun.”
Connor, 5, seemed to enjoy nearly everything about the visit, from flossing the stuffed animals’ teeth in the lobby to meeting members of the ECU dance team.
“He is getting a positive experience out of it,” his father, David Higdon, said. “It’s like a party for him.”
Higdon had been concerned that a visit to the dentist might be traumatic for Connor, who was born with a cleft palate. But various professionals working together ensured his son received the best of care.
“That’s along the lines of the way Give Kids A Smile for us here in Pitt County is going,” Lewis said. “Oral health is one part of overall health. It’s the one that’s usually the most overlooked, but it plays a really significant part in their overall health.”
“The burden of that child’s health rests on everybody who sees and cares for the child regardless of their area of specialty,” he said. “The more we collaborate and cooperate, the better the health of these children.”
Contact Kim Grizzard at email@example.com or 252-329-9578.
via The Daily Reflector.