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Today is Give Kids A Smile day

More than 1,500 programs are planned nationwide

Today is the American Dental Association's 12th national Give Kids A Smile day and dental professionals from coast to coast are mobilizing to provide free oral health services to 350,000 children and adolescents from underserved families.

The national kickoff event will take place today at Howard University in Washington, D.C. Watch ADA News on ADA.org and the Feb. 17 print edition of ADA News for coverage.

Give Kids A Smile has become the world's largest oral health charitable program and an ADA access-to-care endeavor designed to encourage parents, health professionals and policymakers to address the year-round need for oral health care for all children. Since 2003, GKAS has provided dental services for nearly five million children.

"With the recent implementation of the Affordable Care Act, health care is on everyone's mind," said ADA President Charles H. Norman. "There is more to be done to help alleviate the silent epidemic of tooth decay."

The ADA's Health Policy Resources Center estimates that about 8.7 million children are expected to gain some form of dental benefit from the Affordable Care Act, which will reduce by approximately 55 percent the number of children without dental benefits. 

"There are barriers beyond finances that need to be addressed, including education and transportation," said Dr. Norman. "Give Kids A Smile is designed to help the underserved, but also deliver a message to elected officials that more needs to be done."

Give Kids A Smile is a component of the ADA's national community-based access movement Action for Dental Health: Dentists Making a Difference. Action for Dental Health aims to reduce the numbers of adults and children with untreated dental disease through oral health education, prevention and providing treatment now to people in need of care.

The ADA began the Give Kids A Smile program in 2003 as a way for dentists to join with others in the community to provide dental services to underserved children. The program initially began as a one-day event in February, but has since grown to local and national events year-round. Dentists and other team members volunteer their time, and services, to provide screenings, treatments and education to children throughout the United States. Each year, approximately 450,000 children benefit from more than 1500 events, all because of the efforts of 40,000 or more annual volunteers.

The ADA's national Give Kids A Smile program would not be possible without volunteers and continued generous support of sponsors Henry Schein Dental, Colgate and DEXIS.

For more information about Give Kids A Smile, visit the GKAS website and for the latest news, visit the GKAS Facebook page.