Dentists Offer Free Dental Services to Uninsured Children
Trumbull, Connecticut, January 21, 2010—-Encouraging a lifetime of good dental hygiene, and offering urgently-needed dental care to children without dental insurance are the goals of the Give Kids A Smile® 2010 program.
In recognition of National Dental Health Month in February, 57 area dentists will treat children, ages 3 to 18, in their offices who otherwise lack access to affordable dental care. For the past four years, the Southwestern Area Health Education Center’s Oral Health Bridgeport Initiative (ORBIT), in collaboration with the Bridgeport Dental Association, has successfully supported this important initiative, which helps to increase public awareness for children’s need to receive regular dental care.
Beginning on Tuesday, Feb. 2, GKAS® participating dentists in Bridgeport, Stratford, Trumbull, Fairfield, Southport, Monroe, Shelton, Milford, Orange and New Haven opened their offices to provide free dental care. The following services are offered: cleanings, exams, x-rays, sealants, fluoride treatments, fillings, crowns, pulpotomies, root canals and,extractions.
Appointments must be made in advance by calling the Southwestern AHEC’s Oral Health Care Coordinator Vani Anand, MPH, at (203) 372-5503, ext 12.
Funded by a grant from the Connecticut Health Foundation, Give Kids A Smile® in 2009 provided dental services for 450 local children, said Meredith Ferraro, Executive Director of Southwestern AHEC.
Ferraro noted, “We were fortunate to have 52 dentists who provided services valued at more than $150,000.”
Families are encouraged to call for an appointment as soon as possible. “We are also scheduling appointments throughout the entire month of February so that we can accommodate as many children as possible,” Ferraro noted.
Participating dentists recognize the need for families to establish good dental habits at an early age. Routine dental care at home includes daily brushing and flossing as well as regular dental checkups. This year the American Dental Association strongly urges families to also establish a “dental home” for their children so that they will have a comfortable, familiar setting to receive regular dental care.
Untreated dental problems affect children’s overall health, said Dr. Brian Amoroso, president of the Bridgeport Dental Association. Studies reveal that dental caries, or tooth decay, is the most prevalent chronic childhood disease, resulting in excruciating pain, infection, difficulty eating, sleeping and speaking.
“Children who do not have dental insurance are a population that cannot fight for themselves because of their (financial) limitations,” Dr. Amoroso said. “When you have a toothache, you are easily distracted and cannot focus in class. You may even have to miss classes because of the pain.”
Dental problems also exacerbate children’s feelings of low self-esteem and contribute to a poor self-image.
“It’s wonderful because many local dentists have quietly been taking care of children who do not have access to dental insurance for years,” said Ferraro. “Our goal with the Give Kids A Smile® initiative is to put the children who do not have dental insurance together with the dentists who are willing to help.”
More than ever, as the faltering economy continues to lead to job reduction and loss of insurance benefits, free dental care for children is needed.
“The Give Kids A Smile® program is one that my staff and I have truly enjoyed being a part of over the last few years,” said Dr. Salvatore Pizzino, the Bridgeport Dental Association’s program’s chairperson. “Since 2007, it’s been exciting to see the steady increase in the number of children receiving treatment as well as an increase in the number of members volunteering their services. It’s fulfilling to give back to the community, especially to children in need, and I am fortunate to have the ability to do that. During these difficult economic times, our help is even more appreciated and I hope that we are an inspiration to other people in our community.”
The Connecticut State Dental Association applauded last year’s program in the greater Bridgeport region. Participating dentists are also recognized by the Southwestern AHEC and the Bridgeport Dental Association at their annual meeting in May.
Tax deductible donations to the Give Kids A Smile® 2010 program are also appreciated. Checks should be made payable to “Southwestern AHEC” and mailed to Southwestern AHEC, 5520 Park Avenue, Suite 109, Trumbull, CT 06611.
For more information about the program, you may contact Vani Anand, MPH, ORBIT’s oral health care coordinator at (203) 372-5503, ext. 12; Dr. Brian Amoroso, President of the BDA, at (203) 333-3636; or Dr. Salvatore Pizzino, BDA’s GKAS Chairman, at (203) 255-5142.