This post was sponsored by Give Kids A Smile as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central and all opinions expressed in my post are my own.
My twin girls came home from preschool not long ago – talking about how the dentist had visited their classroom that day. They were eager to tell me all that they had learned and seemed really excited to put their knowledge to good use while brushing and flossing. Along with teaching them about healthy habits for dental care, the dentist reiterated to their class the importance of visiting a dentist. My daughters first visited a dentist when they were about a year and a half, just to have the dentist look at the teeth that were coming in. They’ve regularly visited the dentist ever since.
With regular visits to the dentist being so high up on the list of important things to do for good dental hygiene, one might wonder about children that don’t have access to dental care. On a mission trip I took in high school, the children in one family that we were working with had never seen a dentist – ever. And when an issue with one of the children’s teeth was noticed, the parents simply did not have any options to take her to a dentist. The church in their town ended up finding a way for the child to be seen, but only after a big dental problem was already present.
Bottom line, there are issues surrounding the children’s dental healthcare in the U.S. – and fortunately, Give Kids a Smile (GKAS) volunteers have stepped in to help address the issue. February 3rd was the 15th anniversary of GKAS – so it’s a good time to highlight the importance of the dedication of GKAS and their volunteers to improve the smiles of underserved children.
Give Kids a Smile started as a one-day grassroots event in 2002 for 400 kids in St. Louis. Volunteers set up 15 patient chairs to provide free dental care. The idea caught on and the American Dental Association took the lead in launching the program nationally. Now, there are more than 1,300 events in all 50 states reaching more than 5.5 million underserved children! The children who attend a GKAS program receive free oral health services, including education, screening and/or treatment from GKAS volunteers. GKAS works thanks to half a million volunteers, including dentists, dental hygienists, dental assistants, dental technicians, dental office staff, dental students, teachers, parents, school nurses and many other community health professionals.
Despite the availability of Medicaid and improvements in the coverage of children’s dental care – many children continue to suffer from tooth decay. In fact, it is the number one chronic infectious disease among children in the U.S. Tooth decay affects 42% of children ages 2-11 and almost 50% of minority, underserved and Medicaid recipients suffer from untreated caries. More than half of all children enter kindergarten with tooth decay – which untreated- can lead to more school absences, difficulty paying attention and lower self-esteem.
How you can help – two ways:
- Make sure kids around you know to brush their teeth twice a day for two minutes with a fluoride toothpaste, floss once a day and eat healthy meals. Encourage visits to the dentist once a year.
- Thank a dentist who volunteers and help get the word out! If your child or someone you know needs oral health care, visit ADAFoundation.org/GKAS and click “Find Dental Care for Your Child” for a list of resources. You can also call 1-844-490-GKAS (4527) to see if there is a GKAS program available in your area.
Give Kids A Smile Website: https://www.adafoundation.org/gkas
Give Kids A Smile on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GiveKidsASmile
Mouth Healthy Website: http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/babies-and-kids