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Give Kids A Smile at 10

Corporate sponsors celebrate dentistry's 'flagship venture'

February 03, 2012

By Kelly Soderlund, ADA News staff

New York —Ten years and millions of children.

“I marvel about what Give Kids A Smile has become,” said ADA President Dr. William Calnon Feb. 3 at the Nasdaq opening as he marked the national GKAS celebration. “It’s grown up. It’s survived infancy and all the bumps and bruises along the way, and it has matured into one of the ADA’s true flagship ventures.”

“Ten years goes by like that.” Stanley M. Bergman, chairman and chief executive officer of Henry Schein Inc., looked back fondly on past Give Kids A Smile events as he watched a video montage Friday. This year is the 10th anniversary of GKAS, which is the American Dental Association’s signature oral health access program, designed to encourage parents, health professionals and policymakers to address the year-round need for oral health care for underserved children.

Dr. Calnon joined Mr. Bergman and other representatives from the three corporate sponsors of GKAS—Henry Schein Dental, Colgate-Palmolive and DEXIS—at the Nasdaq Friday morning. The group rang the opening bell of the Nasdaq market, telling the world about Give Kids A Smile. Their faces and the GKAS logo were shown on a jumbo TV screen in Times Square.

“It’s really amazing how deep this has gone into dentistry and how wide it is,” said Mr. Bergman, whose company has donated more than $11 million in products and services to support GKAS. “We have made a difference in this country for hundreds of thousands of children.”

This year, more than 40,000 volunteer dentists and their team members are expected to treat children for GKAS at nearly 1,600 sites. About 450,000 annually are seen through the program.

About 80 percent of tooth decay in the United States is suffered by 25 percent of the children, according to the National Institutes of Health. For every child younger than 18 years old without medical insurance, there are at least two children without dental insurance, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Medicaid budgets allocate 2 percent or less for dental services, according to the ADA.

After being spotlighted in Times Square, much of the group then loaded a GKAS themed bus and toured GKAS events at the UMDNJ-New Jersey Dental School in Newark and Bergen Community College’s Dental Hygiene Program in Paramus. New Jersey was selected to host the national flagship GKAS event this year.

The scene at the UMDNJ-New Jersey Dental School was less like a traditional visit to the dentist and more of a carnival environment. As hundreds of school age children waited to be seen by dentists and supervised dental students, they were treated to balloon animals, a magician and colorful posters educating them about good oral health care.

“We wanted to infuse in the kids’ minds the concept of oral health care in a carnival environment. So you take the fear out of it,” said Dr. Arnold Rosenheck, assistant dean at UMDNJ.

Students holding their consent forms waited to be called into sectioned off yellow cubes, where their dental experience began. They were given oral hygiene instruction, inspected for any serious problems, given a fluoride treatment and, if necessary, given emergency care or reappointed for care at a future date, Dr. Rosenheck said.

At Bergen Community College, dental hygiene students entertained waiting children with puppets and coloring books. The students, supervised by dentists, examined the children and provided cleanings.

There was a dentist on-site to do restorative work, if needed, and children were also given referrals if they needed more extensive care. Bergen Community College is one of five dental hygiene programs in New Jersey.

The children were mostly identified by school nurses in public elementary and charter schools and Head Start programs. More than 1,200 volunteer dental professionals at nearly 100 dental locations in New Jersey are expected to treat uninsured children under 12 from low-income families at no charge.

The New Jersey Dental Association solicited $50 from dentists statewide who were interested in donating to a fund that would pay for buses to transport children to GKAS events.

For more information about Give Kids A Smile, visit the program website at Give Kids A Smile and, for the latest news, visit the GKAS Facebook page at www.facebook.com/GiveKidsASmile.