Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Give Kids a Smile Campaign From the ADA

In this season of giving, we'd like to spotlight the very worthwhile efforts of the Give Kids a Smile program. Many of us take things for granted, such as access to affordable, quality dental care. That's why it is important to reflect on the admirable efforts of those responsible for reaching out to children in need.  Last year, the ADA celebrated the 10th anniversary of its "Give Kids a Smile" campaign.


Two dentists started the program in the Greater St. Louis area in 2002. They set up a temporary 2-day, full-service clinic that offered free treatment. In those two days, close to 400 underserved children were seen by the dental professionals. Their efforts caught the attention of the ADA and created awareness within the dental health community of the tremendous need for such a program. So, in 2003, the agency brought it to the national level.

Now, dentists and other volunteers give their time and services, to provide screenings, treatments and education to children across the country. As the program has grown, it has benefited approximately 4.5 million children through over 1,500 events, annually. The program is made possible through of the efforts of more than 325,000 volunteers and 100,000 dentists.

Importance of Dental Care for Kids

The National Institutes of Health reports that close to 80 percent of the tooth decay in the U.S. is experienced by 25 percent of the country's children. Furthermore, data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services show that, "for every child younger than 18 years old without medical insurance, there are at least two children without dental insurance." The fact that state budgets allocate only 2 percent or less for dental services is yet another reason why the "Give Kids a Smile" or GKAS, program is so vital. Dental professionals and volunteers also work within their state and local governments to inform policy makers about the dental health challenges faced by at risk families.

The work done by the GKAS campaign encompasses education, screening, prevention, clinical evaluation and treatment. Thanks to generous donations and thousands of volunteers, public non-profit clinics have been set up, where children can receive services such as x-rays, cleanings, extractions, fillings, fluoride treatments, and dental sealants.

The GKAS campaign has stated its vision: "To eliminate cavities in U.S. 5-year olds by 2020."

Sign up here for Give Kids a Smile Day-2014.

To learn about programs in your community, please use this helpful GKAS finder.

To see what's going on right now, across the country with volunteers and happy participants alike, visit the Give Kids a Smile Facebook page.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Ways to Keep Teens and Young Adults on Track with Their Dental Care

For parents, instilling the importance of routine dental care in their children is an ongoing process. As kids grow up and become more independent and responsible, it's easy to assume that they're taking care of brushing regularly, flossing, and eating healthy snacks. Or is it?

Anyone living with teens and young adults knows that with their erratic schedules and sleep patterns that monitoring their activities, including dental hygiene, is far easier said than done. Some may even compare keeping tabs on these age groups similar to herding cats!

As a parent, maintaining the foundation for dental hygiene that you've built through childhood is difficult during this murky period. Here are a few suggestions from Dr. Melcher that should help:
  • Appeal to your young person's vanity and remind them that having fresh breath and a white smile will make them more attractive to peers and others.
  • Create two dental "tool-kits," one for home and one for their car or sports bag. Fill it with everything they could possibly need such as: a toothbrush, fluoride toothpaste, floss, dental rinse, tongue scraper, and lip balm. Encourage them to use all of the products and let you know when items need replenishing.
  • Let them say "Yum" to gum. In recent years, the ADA has supported the use of sugarless chewing gum as an effective tool in the fight against tooth decay. According to the ADA, chewing gum after a meal increases the flow of saliva in the mouth, which in turn, "actually helps to neutralize and wash away the acids that are produced when food is broken down by the bacteria in plaque on your teeth." However, not all chewing gum acts in this way-offer your young adults only sugarless brands that bear the ADA seal of approval AND discuss the proper disposal methods for chewing gum!
  • Since nagging is usually ineffective, set your child up for success by having healthy snacks at home and plenty of water to drink. Make these items "grab & go" friendly and designate a specific pantry spot and another area in the fridge for cut-up fresh fruits and veggies, cheese, whole grain pretzels, crackers, packages of nuts and dried fruit. Also, purchase a few BPA-free water bottles and have them filled, chilled and ready to grab.
  • In the ongoing quest to make brushing fun, discuss how brushing to some favorite music will ensure that proper brushing time is achieved. If music is not easily accessible, outfit the bathroom space with a small radio or mp3 player as an added incentive. A small, 3-minute hourglass style egg timer is another way to increase brushing time.
  • For those young people who play contact sports, wearing a mouth guard and having a spare in their gym bag is non-negotiable!
  • To encourage young people to be in charge of their dental health, make sure their dentist's office has their e-mail address and cell phone number as well as yours. That way, they will receive appointment reminders and any other helpful communications sent from their dentist's office.
  • It's never too late to remind older kids about the importance of regular brushing and flossing along with the correct "how-to's," such as brushing gently in circles in the direction the teeth grow and flossing between every single tooth. Improper brushing can result in receding gums and gum disease.
Of course, scheduling regular checkups and cleanings are part of a successful dental health routine. Please call our office to schedule an appointment. Our team of dental professionals will also be happy to discus and demonstrate proper brushing and flossing techniques with your young adult or teenager. Just give us a call at: (919) 782-0548