Imagine being a teenager. You have a toothache but you can’t afford dental treatment. Your parents work, but don’t have dental insurance. There isn’t enough money to take you to the dentist. Your tooth is causing you so much discomfort that you do not even want to open your mouth. It’s hard to focus on your schoolwork when you are constantly in pain.
Now imagine you are the parent of a first grader. Your child says her mouth hurts but you have no money to pay to see a dentist; all the money that you make from your job is used to pay for other basic needs. You save money for months so that you can take your child to a dentist. But by the time you’ve saved enough, the problem has intensified and the only solution is to extract teeth that could have been filled months ago.
If you think the above scenarios don’t happen often in America, think again. These are actual examples from right here in Northeast Texas. However, thanks to the “Give Kids a Smile” program, many area children recently received critical dental work. Communities In Schools of Northeast Texas (an outreach program of Northeast Texas Community College) worked with school nursing professionals to identify children with the greatest needs, and then researched to determine student eligibility.
“So many of the children in our area do not receive dental care because their parents can't afford it, they do not have dental insurance, and they are not eligible for Medicaid. Dental care, sadly, is often thought of as an expendable luxury. Because dental need is so great among our kids, the CIS Youth Services Coordinators spend much of their time looking for resources to help provide these kids the dental care they so desperately need,” Melody Henry, Associate Dean of Outreach Services for Northeast Texas Community College and Executive Director of Communities In Schools of Northeast Texas, said. “We are grateful to the dentists and their staff for providing care to these children through “Give Kids A Smile”, and for the area dentists who continue to make a difference in the lives of the children of Northeast Texas.”
Children were identified as eligible to participate in the program based on immediate dental need, and lack of resources (dental insurance, Medicaid, CHIPS, funding) to offset the expense of the needed dental care. Through the “Give Kids A Smile” program, area dentists were able to provide no-cost dental care to 57 children from Titus, Camp, Morris and Franklin Counties, with dental care estimated at over $30,000.
"I am proud to be part of our association of dental health care providers who really care about their patients, the public, and especially the children in our area," Dr. Dan P. McCauley, D.D.S., who participated locally in the “Give Kids A Smile” project, said. "We and our staff are all working to treat all these children for free in a real effort to help resolve some of the pain and infection these children have on a daily basis. We all remain committed to maintaining the best oral care in the world and all feel fortunate to live in a country where we can care for each other in such a beneficial way”.
In addition to Dr. McCauley, other area dentists who participated in the “Give Kids A Smile” project, included Dr. Rebecca Ball, Dr. Rickey Crane, (pictured left with student), Dr. Herbert Cross Jr, Dr. John L. Greene, Dr. Shae Ochoa, Dr. Kenny Thompson, and Dr. Candy Ward in Mount Pleasant, and Dr. J.L. Collier of Naples (pictured above).
Untreated dental disease is a growing epidemic throughout the United States. In fact, millions of children suffer from untreated, easily preventable oral diseases that affect overall health, including speech, eating patterns and ability to concentrate in school. According to a Surgeon General report, “Oral Health in America”, dental decay is the most common disease affecting U.S. children, occurring at five times the rate of asthma and seven times that of hay fever.
To help combat the growing problem, February has been identified as National Children’s Dental Health Month. And to further address the need, “Give Kids A Smile” was developed by the American Dental Association as a day where dentists across the nation are encouraged to provide no-cost dental care to children in need. The American Dental Association (ADA) created "Give Kids A Smile" to focus national attention on the issue of access to oral health care for underserved children. Along with its national sponsors, Colgate, Henry Schein Dental, and DEXIS, the ADA hopes to build support for public and private solutions that will help underserved children get regular oral health care. Nationally, dentists at more than 5,000 sites participated in events big and small to provide free services to children from low-income families. Events ranged from large-scale dental clinics providing free fillings, cleanings and fluoride treatments, to groups of dentists providing care to underserved children in their private practices. Locally, eight dental offices provided services to 53 children. Because so many children needed these services, dentists provided “Give Kids A Smile” services throughout February, March and into April of 2011.
One parent whose daughter was selected for the program said, “I think this is a really good thing. I just paid $500 for dental care for my son, but I’d just gotten my Income tax return, so I could afford it. I knew that my daughter needed dental work too, but we were going to have to wait until next year so I could afford the treatment. I’m really glad this program is allowing us to get the treatment she needs now, before her dental problems get any worse.”
For more information about Communities In Schools of Northeast Texas, please visit www.ntcc.edu/CIS.