Dental assistant Penny Miklovic, left, and pediatrics resident Tracy Tran work on Alana Buck, 13, during the Toledo Dental Society’s Give Kids a Smile Day at the University of Toledo Medical Center, formerly the Medical College of Ohio Hospital.
There were fillings, X-rays, cleanings — and yes, a few tears.
But local dentists, hygienists, and students gave free care to about 450 low-income children on Friday, part of a national effort called Give Kids a Smile Day.
This is the 10th year the Toledo Dental Society has sponsored the program locally.
The organization estimates it gave away care worth about $100,000 in total, said Dr. Shabbir Hashim, chairman of this year’s event.
About 60 hygienists and 30 to 40 dentists locally volunteered for the program.
The day aims to provide care to low-income children who are not receiving dental services, most likely because they have no private insurance or Medicaid coverage.
As the event has grown over the last 10 years, the organization has aimed to refine the program to get ongoing care for children throughout the year.
“It’s more than just one day,” said Dr. Erin Knierim, a first-year pediatric dental resident at University of Toledo Medical Center. “Today is an avenue for us to find some of those patients that we can bring back and treat.”
“Cavities are a big problem,” added Dr. Chad Shobe, also a pediatric dental resident and volunteer at UTMC, the former Medical College of Ohio.
“They are a silent epidemic,” and can lead to problems such as missed school days, costly emergency room visits, and harming the growth and development of teeth.”
In 2009, more than 16 million low-income children went without dental care, according to The Pew Children’s Dental Campaign.
First-year pediatric dental resident Erin Knierim cleans the teeth of Khaiya Johnson, 8, of Bryan, during the Toledo Dental Society's Give Kids a Smile Day at the UT Dental Residency Program.
Tooth decay affects nearly 60 percent of children, according to the organization, which advocates for expanding the number of professionals who can provide dental care to low-income children and urging Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program to increase access to care.
Lack of proper dental care has real consequences, according to research that shows kids who do not receive dental care miss a significant number of school days, use emergency room services more often, and face worsened job prospects as adults.
“This can affect children and their academics,” said Dr. Hashim.
“This has a lot of wider implications.”
Asul Johnson of Bryan brought her two children, ages 7 and 8, to have their teeth examined Friday. Both need dental work, she said.
“We couldn’t afford the cost to have their teeth fixed,” she said.
In addition to UTMC, other area events took place at the Toledo and Findlay branches of the Dental Center of Northwest Ohio and the Owens Community College Dental Hygiene Clinic in Perrsyburg Township.
Beth Tronolone, academic chairman of Owens’ dental hygiene and dental assisting programs, said in the last eight years that Owens has participated in the day, tooth decay has decreased in the children they have seen from year to year, because of the use of sealants and prevention education measures.
“We’re really trying to prevent decay,” she said.
Statewide, about 17,000 Ohio children were to receive free care Friday and during subsequent follow-ups, according to the Ohio Dental Association.
Contact Kate Giammarise at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6091, or on Twitter @KateGiammarise.