STATE — The nationally recognized annual program, Give Kids a Smile! National Dental Access Day, enters its 9th year here in New Jersey. On Friday, February 4, 2011, more than 1,300 volunteer dental professionals at 103 dental locations in New Jersey will treat low-income or uninsured children ages 12 and under at no charge. The Give Kids a Smile! program is New Jersey’s, and the nation’s, largest organized free day of health care.
Locations will include private dental offices, county college dental hygiene programs, hospital-based dental residency programs, the New Jersey Dental School at UMDNJ, federally qualified dental clinics and a dental assisting school. Services will include fillings, extractions, fluoride and sealant treatments and basic oral health education. Click here for a list of participating dental locations (PDF format).
“There is no doubt that most businesses, including dental offices, are negatively affected by the down economy,” says Dr. Richard Kahn, president of the New Jersey Dental Association and a New Brunswick-based periodontist. “But, we realize that children out there are in need whether the economy is bad or not. The need is real and we as dental professionals are doing our part in trying to meeting that need every day.”
Children, mostly identified by school nurses in public elementary and charter schools and Head Start programs, have had access to this program since 2003. More than 20,000 children have come through the program receiving nearly $5 million in free dental care. The program is managed by the New Jersey Dental Association (NJDA) in cooperation with the New Jersey Dental Hygienists’ Association and the New Jersey Dental Assistants’ Association and is supported nationally by the American Dental Association, Henry Schein, Inc. and Colgate. Information on the program can be obtained, in both English and Spanish, at www.njda.org/gkas.
The Give Kids a Smile! program, via NJDA, conducts year-round programming on the importance of children’s oral health with school nurse associations and other dental-related organizations. It also helps connect local dentists with schools to ensure that school nurses have a dental resource throughout the school year when emergencies may arise. The program exhibits and presents education workshops at health fairs and has conducted in-school screenings that included free immediate follow-up treatment with a local dentist for eligible children.
Nearly 4,400 children came through the program in 2010 at 91 New Jersey locations. The growth in locations this year is in anticipation of a record-breaking need due to the high unemployment rate in New Jersey, the explosive growth of children living in poverty and more families opting to forgo dental insurance and treatment in order to help pay for other essential living expenses.
“Our goal is to eliminate cavities in New Jersey’s children. Give Kids a Smile! day is one of the ways in which NJDA dentists are moving towards this goal,” says Dr. Cavan Brunsden, statewide chair of Give Kids a Smile! and a pediatric dentist in Old Bridge. “Tooth decay is the number one chronic childhood disease in America and is 100% preventable. The more we keep pushing this message out to the public and those who can help us reach this goal, the faster we can put our children on the road to becoming cavity and pain free.”
The New Jersey Dental Association (NJDA), a constituent organization of the American Dental Association, is among the 10 largest state dental associations in the country. Founded in 1870, the NJDA is headquartered in North Brunswick and serves and supports its members and fosters the advancement of quality, ethical oral healthcare for the public. Two thirds of all licensed practicing dentists in the state are members of the NJDA.
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