Program Offers Free Dental Care For Kids

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STATE—The New Jersey Dental Association (NJDA) will host the national Give Kids a Smile! (GKAS) Children’s Dental Access Day for the 8th year on Friday, Feb. 5, 2010, at more than 80 participating locations around the state.

On this day, thousands of children 12 and under will have access to free dental care at any of the participating locations (PDF), and it couldn’t happen at a more crucial time.

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Statistics from the American Dental Association show that more than 51 million school hours are lost each year because of dental pain. About one third of all children in the United States have no dental insurance, and uninsured children are 2.5 times less likely to receive dental care then insured children.

In addition, tooth decay (cavities) is the #1 chronic childhood disease in America, five times more prevalent than asthma and 12 times for prevalent than juvenile diabetes. The good news is that with good oral hygiene, a healthy diet and consistent visits to the dentist, tooth decay is preventable.

“We are looking forward to a breakout year with GKAS in 2010,” says pediatric dentist, Dr. Cavan Brunsden, the statewide chairman of the program. “I’m so proud to be a part of a profession that takes its responsibility to the healthcare of children seriously and takes measures to demonstrate this responsibility in a very public way.”

Since its inception in 2003, more than 13,000 children have come through GKAS in New Jersey and have received nearly $2.4 million in free dental services. Nationally, the program takes place in every state on the same day and treats nearly 460,000 children via more than 45,000 volunteers at nearly 2,000 locations each year. New Jersey’s own UMDNJ-New Jersey Dental School is one of the largest sites for GKAS nationally.  On GKAS day, the school treats more than 800 children.

Parents, guardians, school nurses and community leaders have taken advantage of this incredible opportunity to have free dental care for children in need.  The program also serves as a way to introduce children to dentistry via a positive, fun-filled day of learning about the importance of oral health. Today, every public school elementary school, charter school and Head Start nurse was mailed the list of participating locations to distribute to their students’ parents or guardians.

The program’s website, www.njda.org/gkas, contains all the information necessary for both volunteers and parents to take part, including a list of all the participating locations (attached) in each of the 21 New Jersey counties, and multi-lingual parental consent forms. Those without internet access can call the program’s hotline at 1-877-576-9278, leave a message and someone will return the call promptly.

There is no means testing for children to participate and each site varies in the level of dental care provided, so parents are urged to inquire about specific dental services offered when they call to make appointments.


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