More than 450 children across the country without dental insurance received much needed dental care at no cost during the Kool Smiles "Sharing Smiles" free care day on Sunday, February 22, 2015.
Bone chilling temperatures and inclement weather in many of the 13 states where Kool Smiles offices offered free dental care didn't stop families from bringing in their children for a range of dental procedures. Although the free care day provided an opportunity to address immediate dental needs, it also underscored the dental access challenges families face and theoverall lack of coverage for dental care.
"Throughout the day, we were reminded that there are still children who are unable to consistently access dental health care and all the benefits that come with it," said Dr. Polly Boehnlein, DDS, MS, a board-certified pediatric dentist and Managing Dental Director for Kool Smiles. "While Kool Smiles is proud to offer a full range of dental services to traditionally underserved populations – including patients covered under Medicaid or State Children's Health Insurance Plans (SCHIP) – there are still children for whom regular, affordable dental care is still sadly out of reach."
While largely preventable, childhood tooth decay remains the most common, chronic childhood disease. It is five times more common than asthma and affects 42 percent of children ages 2 to 11, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If left untreated, dental decay can lead to pain, difficulty eating and chewing, and more serious infections - some of which can be life threatening.
"Children who have regular access to a dentist are likely to be healthier and happier," continued Dr. Boehnlein. "It is a rewarding experience to see children smile proudly and with confidence after receiving the dental care they need. No child should be deprived of access to dental care due to family finances."
In addition, studies show complications from a lack of dental care at an early age can compromise a child's academic performance. To that, Kool Smiles offers lesson plans to teachers for in-classroom education on proper dental hygiene practice. For more information on the Kool Smiles dental health lesson plans, click here.
Kool Smiles dentists, who provided more than $16 million in uncompensated care in 2014, also urge the entire dental professional community to bridge the dental divide in the U.S and reach out to families in need of care.
The "Sharing Smiles" day of free dental care was made possible by the volunteer efforts of Kool Smiles dentists, dental hygienists, dental assistants, office managers, clinical team leads, and other staff members. Sharing Smiles Day is sponsored by the Benevis Foundation.