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.

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