Dentists throughout Ohio will once again go into their communities to give free dental care to underserved children through the Give Kids a Smile program. Nearly 19,000 Ohio children are expected to receive a range of free dental services from over 1,800 volunteers throughout this year.
Feb. 4 is the official date for the ninth-annual GKAS program at which dentists join with their peers nationally to educate, screen and/or treat children in need of dental care for free. However, GKAS has grown to more than just a day. Some sites will do all that can be done on Feb. 4, while others will examine children on one day and offer free follow-up care after, or hold events on multiple dates. The Ohio dentists and other volunteers will provide free screenings, exams, cleanings, preventive services, restorative care, oral surgery, and more to children with an estimated dollar value of over $1 million in free services.
Give Kids a Smile is about serving children who are uninsured and whose families have no resources to afford dental care. It is also about awareness as many children seen through GKAS are seeing a dentist for the first time in their life.
President of the Ohio Dental Association, Dr. Thomas Matanzo of Wintersville, said the need to educate all Ohioans about the importance of good oral health is strong.
"Ohio's Give Kids a Smile programs have grown from helping 3,000 children in 2003 to over 16,000 in 2010, and that number is expected to be even higher in 2011. While those are compelling numbers, what is even more compelling is that all children should have a healthy mouth, and no child should be in pain because of dental disease. Our quest is as much to educate the families, communities and policy makers on the importance of maintaining good oral health as it is to keep our children pain-free and in good oral health," Matanzo said.
GKAS also helps strengthen legislators' awareness about the access to dental care problem that exists in Ohio and throughout the U.S. Access to dental care continues to be Ohio's number one unmet healthcare need, as cited recently in the Ohio Department of Health's report, Oral Health and Access to Dental Care for Ohioans, 2010.
Give Kids a Smile was started in 2003 by the American Dental Association. It is supported in Ohio by the Ohio Dental Association, and nationally by the American Dental Association, Colgate, Henry Schein Dental and Dexis Digital X-ray Systems, Inc.
Large scale and/or multiple events are scheduled in many areas of the state, including Akron, Canton, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton, East Liverpool, Hillsboro, Lorain, Mentor, Portsmouth, Steubenville, Toledo, and Youngstown; smaller events are also scheduled in many private dental offices and schools in Ohio. To learn of an event in your coverage area, please call Kathy L. Woodard, ODA director of public service, at (614) 486-2700.