San Mateo County Dentists Give Kids a Smile

Armen Hareyan's picture
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On February 2, 2007, San Mateo County children from local low-income families will receive free dental services, ranging from exams and cleanings to fillings and crowns, as part of national Give Kids A Smile Day.

Children selected to participate in this year's event were referred by organizations such as Child Care Coordinating Council, North Peninsula Neighborhood Services, Children's Health Initiative, Ravenswood Family Health Center, Lucile Packard Children's Hospital, Samaritan House, and Family Resource Centers.

Last year more than 39,000 dental team members nationwide participated in Give Kids A Smile Day, a program first held in 2003, by the American Dental Association (ADA) to provide care and raise awareness of the importance of dental care for low-income children. In San Mateo County, 20 dentists and staff provided dental exams and treatment to approximately 92 children from 1 to 18 years of age. The families also received assistance with health insurance enrollment.

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"Adult patients have told me that they cried themselves to sleep when they were young and couldn't concentrate in school because of toothaches from dental cavities. We don't want that to happen to our children," said Dr. Dorothy Vura-Weis, Assistant Health Officer, CHDP Medical Director and family physician at Fair Oaks Children's Clinic.

Oral health is integral to overall health. Untreated dental disease is painful and affects a child's physical, emotional and social development. Kids with untreated dental decay can't eat or sleep properly; they can't concentrate in school, not to mention how it affects them emotionally.

According to a survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly half of U.S. children ages 2 to 9 suffer from untreated tooth decay, which is five times more common than asthma. While timely treatment is necessary to stop any further decay, preventive measures such as a healthy diet, good oral hygiene, dental sealants and water fluoridation are essential in preventing cavities.

"Give Kids A Smile Day has two goals: to help children get the dental care they so desperately need and to raise awareness that our children deserve a better health care system that addresses their dental health needs. Dentists want to be part of the solution, but we can't solve the problem of access to care on our own. We need to raise awareness of the need to build public and private partnerships at the state and local levels to come up with common sense solutions to help our poor children," said Dr. Gracia Cua, vice president of San Mateo County Dental Society.

"We need to make good oral health a priority for all children in California. We need to educate policymakers and parents that good oral health is integral to overall health and that preventive measure like fluoridation and sealants result in long term savings. We need common sense solutions and other reforms that will encourage more dentists to participate in public health insurance programs," said Dr. Gracia Cua.

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