Give Kids A Smile celebrating 15th anniversary
Give Kids A Smile is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year. As the national event celebrates this occasion, the Ohio Dental Association is preparing for two kick-off events this year – one at the Dental Center of Northwest Ohio Van Wert Smiles location and a second event at The Ohio State University College of Dentistry.
The first kick-off event will take place in Van Wert on Feb. 3. Volunteers expect to see about 50 children for care. State legislators and local leaders have been invited to the event to learn about Give Kids A Smile and access to dental care.
“Van Wert, and the surrounding area, is so fortunate to have a clinic like Van Wert Smiles,” said ODA President Dr. Kevin Laing. “Through the support of the Van Wert County Hospital and Dental Center of Northwest Ohio, the clinic operates on a low fee basis so that everyone can have dental care. I am pleased that we can bring the spotlight on the clinic as we celebrate the Give Kids A Smile kick-off for the first time in Van Wert.”
The second kick-off event will take place at OSU on Feb. 4. Dental students and faculty will volunteer to provide free care to children in central Ohio. State legislators from the Columbus area will be invited to the event to learn about the dental school, Give Kids A Smile and access to dental care.
In 2017, so far 95 events have been planned in Ohio, and 17,000 children are expected to receive dental care and/or oral health education at those events. Nearly 2,000 people plan to volunteer for Give Kids A Smile events in Ohio, including 473 dentists, and expect to provide about $800,000 in donated care. At least one event is planned within each component society’s jurisdiction, and these events range from a single member hosting an event, to society-organized events.
Give Kids A Smile is a national access to care initiative where dentists donate dental care to underserved children that are in need of care. Give Kids A Smile events and initiatives take place throughout the year, and come in all shapes and sizes. Participating dentists decide the scope, location, number of children and dates of their events. Programs range from educational events to basic screening and preventive care to full restorative.
“Historically, February has been designated as Children’s Dental Health Month; a time the ADA sets aside to spotlight prevention and good oral health habits for kids. That is why we concentrate a great deal of our efforts to celebrate the kick-off of Give Kids A Smile in February,” Laing said. “The Give Kids A Smile program is really a year-round effort for members of organized dentistry to highlight our support of programs providing dental services to those in need. Even though most dentists provide free or discounted services in their offices every week, the program gives us a forum to focus attention on our ongoing efforts.”
Any program that screens or treats children for free or provides free oral health education can qualify as a Give Kids A Smile event. Many dentists already provide such care in their offices or educational presentations in schools, and just need to register with the ADA to be considered a Give Kids A Smile initiative. Registering events as a Give Kids A Smile initiative helps demonstrate to the public and to policymakers the care that dentists are providing to children in need.
“The good works done in various clinics throughout the state on a daily basis deserves our support, as well as the support of government to keep them open providing oral care to those less fortunate,” Laing said. “Charity is not a health care system, but hopefully through Give Kids A Smile events the politicians will see that there is a need for care, and through proper funding of safety net clinics and Medicaid all Ohioans can enjoy improved oral health.”
New this year, the ODA is providing a toolkit for dentists to use when promoting their Give Kids A Smile events. The toolkit will help members promote their event to the public and find patients if needed, as well as demonstrate to the public and to policymakers how dentists are working to improve access to care for children in need. The toolkit will include a press release and content for social media and websites.
Since 2003, dentists have donated more than $12.6 million in free dental care and oral health education, and nearly 237,000 children have been impact by Give Kids A Smile in Ohio.
“Many thanks to all of our member dentists and their staffs for supporting Give Kids A Smile programs across the entire state of Ohio,” Laing said.
For more information and to register an event, dentists can visit https://www.oda.org/get-involved/in-your-community/give-kids-a-smile/, or contact ODA Manager of Public Service and ODA Foundation Kristy Kowalski by calling (800) 282-1526 or emailing Kristy@oda.org.