Every child deserves a healthy smile, and access to quality dental care. Poor dental health can lead to a variety of physical, social, and developmental issues, having a dramatic negative impact on young lives. Fortunately, the ADA Foundation Give Kids A Smile program is available to help make dental care accessible to all children nationwide.
Even with recent improvements in the coverage of children’s dental care under the Affordable Care Act, and the availability of Medicaid, there are still too many kids who continue to suffer from tooth decay, which is currently the number one chronic infectious disease among young children in the United States.
More than 42 percent of children ages 2-11, and nearly 50 percent of minority, underserved, and Medicaid recipients, suffer from untreated tooth decay. The good news, is that tooth decay is largely preventable, and with programs like Give Kids A Smile (GKAS), we can change these statistics and make a difference in the lives of children.
The ADA (American Dental Association) Foundation Give Kids A Smile program began in 2002, as a one-day grassroots event for over 400 kids in St. Louis. Through the effort and dedication of volunteers, along with the generous support of the ADA, it has now expanded to more than 1,300 events in all 50 states, reaching more than 5.5 million underserved children. This year, Give Kids A Smile is celebrating their 15th anniversary!
Over the past 15 years, more than half a million volunteers, including dentists, dental assistants, school nurses, and many other community health professionals, have given their time and talents to provide oral health services, such as screenings, preventative care, dental treatments, and education to children who otherwise might not have access.
For many years, as a preschool teacher, I worked with children who weren’t receiving regular dental care, and it was a heartbreaking experience.
I remember a specific child who, at the age of 4, had tooth decay to the point that his teeth were cracking and changing colors. He had trouble eating, and would often complain of pain in his mouth. I felt horrible that there wasn’t much I could do to help him, and only wish there was a program like Give Kids A Smile that I could have referred his family to.
Give Kids A Smile (GKAS) is truly a life-changing program. They are providing services that have the potential to deeply impact the quality of life for children across the country.
If you’re interested in volunteering with GKAS, would like to donate to this worthy cause, or are interested in finding dental care for a child in your life, be sure to visit the Give Kids A Smile website or connect on Facebook, for more information.
Regardless of income, social status, ethnicity, or geographic location, each and every child should have the ability to receive high-quality dental care from caring and qualified professionals. The ADA Foundation Give Kids A Smile program is making that happen, ensuring all children have the healthy, happy smile they deserve.