WEST ALLIS, WIS., Feb. 4, 2014 – More than 13,800 low-income Wisconsin children will receive an estimated $1.1 million in donated dental care this Friday, Feb. 7, and during upcoming weeks, as part of the 12th annual Give Kids A Smile® national children’s dental access program.
Some 337 dentists, 187 dental hygienists and 1,028 other dental team members, dental, hygiene and assisting students, faculty and community advocates will volunteer their time and skills to get underserved children across the Badger State out of pain and treat dental disease with fillings, extractions and crowns. Other events involve dental health screenings, cleanings and oral hygiene education.
GKAS® activities are taking place in private dental practices, large-scale clinics and classrooms in at least 64 communities statewide.
The Wisconsin Dental Association and its member dentists and dental hygienists work with the state’s Department of Health Services‘ Oral Health Program, local government agencies, schools, Head Start and youth and community organizations to identify low-income children in need of dental treatment.
Tooth decay is a serious and transmissible disease. Early childhood cavities, which are preventable, are four times more common than asthma and seven times more common than hay fever among America’s children according to the U. S. Surgeon General’s “Oral Health in America” report.
The “2013 – Healthy Smiles/Healthy Growth” report notes 53 percent of third grade children in Wisconsin have fillings and 18 percent currently have untreated dental decay.
Nationwide, children miss 54 million school hours annually because of dental problems.
“The WDA, American Dental Association and American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommend children have a professional dental exam no later than age 1, because baby teeth matter to a child’s early physical, social and emotional development,” said Dr. Julio Rodriguez, WDA president and a general dentist in Brodhead.
Franklin – Dental Associates on south 27th Street is working with local elementary schools to identify up to 20 children for needed care. During February, dental team members will also visit classrooms to share important oral health information with students.
Elsewhere in the Milwaukee area, GKAS® again is being celebrated with a large-scale, multiple day cooperative effort involving more than 50 volunteer dentists, along with 145 dental team members, dental and hygiene students and community helpers.
Organizations involved include the Greater Milwaukee Dental Association, Marquette University School of Dentistry, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Dental Clinic, Children’s Dental Center at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin and Milwaukee Area Technical College dental hygiene program and numerous private dental offices.
Volunteers were prepared to welcome 600 children, but wintery weather meant just 254 children, along with parents and caregivers, lined up at MUSOD on Jan. 25 to be screened for dental disease. Young patients had their teeth cleaned and fluoride varnish applied. All families were educated about good oral hygiene.
Twenty youngsters required treatment for urgent dental needs that day. Another 77 children are being provided follow-up treatment at participating clinics and in private dental offices on Feb. 4 and 7.
Estimated value of preventive and restorative care provided to Milwaukee-area youngsters on this year’s GKAS® screening and treatment days is approximately $84,000.
Approximately $7.2 million in free dental care and instruction has been provided to 49,900 youth across the Badger State through GKAS® since 2003.
“Charity isn’t an effective or efficient way of reducing barriers to dental care. Dentists are glad to donate their time and skills, but we also want to work with lawmakers to help the state make ‘Healthy Choices’ for the long term,” Rodriguez said.
GKAS® activities are supported nationwide, in part, with donations from Henry Schein Dental, Colgate and DEXIS®. Pediatric dental forms are made available to Wisconsin GKAS® events by The Dental Record through the Professional Services Division of WDA Insurance and Services Corp.