CHICAGO--February is National Children's Dental Health Month, and on Feb. 1, more than 51,000 dental professionals will provide free dental services to more than 500,000 children from low-income families, at more than 2,000 sites nationwide.
This effort is part of the American Dental Association's sixth annual Give Kids A Smile program, which offers educational materials, screenings and--where possible--free dental care such as cleaning, fluoride treatments, fillings and even more intensive care.
Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease affecting American children, five times more common than asthma according to a report by the U.S. Surgeon General. Reversing a half century of progress, recent CDC data shows that tooth decay is on the rise among preschoolers.
Untreated oral disease has been linked to childhood infections and more catastrophic illnesses such as the untreated abscess that took the life in 2007 of a 12-year-old Maryland boy, Deamonte Driver. More commonly, tooth decay greatly restricts children's daily activities and results in the loss of many millions of hours of classroom time each year.
"Dental care remains a critical unmet health care need among America's children," said Mark J. Feldman, DMD, president of the American Dental Association. "The ADA and dentists across the nation are engaged in creating public awareness of this critical need and trying to extend access to dental care to more low-income children. To this end we are celebrating Feb. 1 with our sixth annual Give Kids A Smile program, to help put children on the road to a lifetime of good oral health."
The ADA launched its national Give Kids A Smile program to combat what the U.S. Surgeon General called "a silent epidemic" of dental disease and to encourage parents, health professionals, policymakers and everyone who cares about children to address this important health issue.
The ADA recommends that children see a dentist no later than their first birthdays; however, studies reveal that only three out of five children have done so by the time they enter kindergarten. Because of inattention and other barriers to oral care, more than half (52 percent) of children ages six to eight have tooth decay, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in its Healthy People 2010 oral health update.
Give Kids A Smile events are offered by groups of dentists in their private practices and by individual dentists in a variety of locations, coast to coast. A national centerpiece Give Kids A Smile event will be held Feb. 1 at the University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine in Aurora and attended by ADA Board Member Kenneth J. Versman, DDS, and by ADA Executive Director James B. Bramson, DDS. Previewing the events, ADA President-Elect John S. Findley, DDS, will appear on a number of morning television programs Jan. 31.
The ADA strongly supports several bills before Congress to help improve access to oral health care, including the Children's Dental Health Improvement Act of 2007 and H.R. 2371, known as "Deamonte's Law," named for the child who died in Maryland of an untreated abscess.
The ADA urges parents to take control of their families' oral health by making sure that their children brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, floss daily, eat a balanced diet and see dentists regularly to address any tooth decay before it develops into greater health issues.
Give Kids A Smile events would not be possible without the dental professionals who volunteer their time and services as well as the generous support of corporate sponsors.
In 2008, the Colgate-Palmolive Company will supply 300,000 toothbrushes and tubes of toothpaste for Give Kids A Smile events; DEXIS Digital X-ray will offer the use of one DEXIS Digital X-ray system to each U.S. dental school participating in Give Kids A Smile, as well as support staff to assist in the taking of X-rays; and Henry Schein Dental will provide professional dental kits containing such products as gloves, masks, patient bibs, dental floss, prophy paste and fluoride gel, foam and varnish.
Give Kids A Smile is also being expanded this year to include grants that will be awarded to access programs for the underserved. Those grants are made possible through generous founding and sustaining donations by CareCredit, the world's largest provider of patient financing, and significant donations by the William Wrigley Jr. Co.
For more information about the ADA, visit the Association's Web site at ADA.