Giving kids a smile

There were plenty of happy faces to be seen earlier this month when Eastern Gateway Community College held its annual Give Kids a Smile event.

Thanks to the program, more than 70 area children who have no access to dental insurance were able to receive free oral health screenings, X-rays, dental exams, cleanings and necessary fillings free of charge.

All of that was made possible through the efforts of local dentists and hygientists, who volunteer their time, and dental assisting students from EGCC.

Hundreds of area children have been able to receive benefits during the nearly 20 years the program has been in existence. In addition to the dental services, participating children were taught proper brushing and flossing techniques and why food and drinks with high sugar content should be avoided and healthier options explored in order to protect their teeth from cavities.

That’s important, especially when you consider that 20 percent of children between the ages of 5 and 11 have at least one untreated and decayed tooth, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Children between the ages of 5 and 19 who come from low-income families are twice as likely to have cavities as children who come from higher-income households, the CDC adds.

Resulting pain and infections can lead to problems with eating, speaking, playing and learning, the CDC said, and can lead children with poor oral health to miss more school and receive lower grades.

Those numbers are among the reasons why the American Dental Association, Ohio Dental Association and the Eastern Ohio Dental Society continue to support the Give Kids a Smile program. Thanks to members of those organizations and other volunteers, more than $14.5 million in donated dental care and health education has been provided in Ohio alone through the program. In 2018, EGCC’s program completed more than $11,000 in free dental services.

Give Kids a Smile allows young people who might not have other options to be treated, provides valuable experience to dental students and offers professional providers a chance to give back to the community. It fills an important role in improving health care in our region, and officials at Eastern Gateway deserve to be commended for continuing to facilitate the program.