Friday, February 04, 2005

Friday Means Free Dental Care for Needy Kids

Give Kids a Smile!

THURSDAY, Feb. 3 (HealthDay News) -- At least half a million children across the United States will receive free dental services Friday, Feb. 4, as part of the American Dental Association's (ADA) nationwide Give Kids a Smile Day.

More than 10,000 dentists and 28,000 dental professional volunteers will provide care at more than 1,700 locations, ADA officials say. The program is designed to improve the dental health of needy children and to highlight the fact that many American children lack access to adequate dental care.

Services provided on this third annual "Give Kids a Smile Day" include screening, cleaning, diagnosis, cavity fillings and instruction in brushing and flossing.

A recent U.S. Surgeon General's report estimated that 25 percent of American children between two to four years old have visible tooth decay, and that number jumps to 53 percent by the time kids reach second grade. The ADA says that 80 percent of tooth decay occurs in just 25 percent of U.S. children. Most of those are children from low-income families, children in poor health, or children with special needs.

Children from families with an income of less than $20,000 a year have 10 times the unmet dental needs of children from families with annual incomes of $50,000 or more, ADA experts add.

Every day, four to five million children in the U.S. suffer tooth decay severe enough to cause them pain and infection. Thousands of these children have trouble eating, sleeping and paying attention in school, the ADA said, and untreated dental needs in children often lead to costly and painful emergency surgery or hospital care.

Leslee Williams, a spokeswoman for the American Dental Association, said parents should contact state or local dental societies to find out about "Give Kids a Smile" events in their area.

More Information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about children's dental hygiene.

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