LOUISVILLE, Ky. Dental and dental hygiene students, along with faculty, staff and a host of community volunteers, spent their day on Feb. 7 working to improve the smiles of 116 children from schools in Henry, Jefferson and Meade counties.
The effort was part of Smile Kentucky!, a community partnership that tackles what the U.S. Surgeon General has called the number one common, chronic childhood disease – tooth decay. The event, held at the UofL School of Dentistry, corresponds with the American Dental Association’s national Give Kids a Smile Day.
Prior to treatment day, dentists and dental hygienists go to select area schools and perform free oral health screenings to children in third – sixth grade. Parents then receive a report on the dental screening results. Smile Kentucky! invites children with no dental coverage to receive free dental care, ranging from cleanings to fillings or extractions the first Friday in February.
As a part of the initiative, health educators also teach children in each of the schools how to brush and floss their teeth properly, the importance of visiting a dentist and how to make healthy snack and drink choices.
Established in 2002, Smile Kentucky! is considered a national model for community partnerships. More than 150,000 children have taken part in education programs, 40,000 have received a free dental screening, and 3,300 have received free dental treatment valued at $1.2 million.
A second treatment day is tentatively set for Feb. 21, when children from the Newcomer Academy at Shawnee High School will receive dental care.