Nearly one in four children under the age of 5 already has cavities, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many children enrolled in Medicaid receive no dental services throughout the year.
To combat this statistic locally, Augusta University’s Dental College of Georgia participates every year in the Give Kids a Smile event organized by the American Dental Association.
Give Kids A Smile Day is held annually during National Children’s Dental Health Month in February to provide free, easily accessible dental services to qualifying individuals, raise awareness of the epidemic of untreated dental disease occurring locally and nationally, and create local public and private partnerships to increase access to oral health care to solve this crisis.
DCG faculty and residents donate their time and expertise, supported by supply donations from the Give Kids a Smile Foundation, to care for underserved pediatric patients in our region.
“There are some families we only see on this day,” said Michael Milano, DMD, adding that their income levels and insurance coverage don’t allow room in the household budget for regular dental care. Those who need more extensive care than the DCG can provide in one day are invited back to continue treatment.
However, Milano cautions against the idea that one day can solve the care gap.
“Consistent oral hygiene practices and regular dental check-ups are the best preventers of tooth decay,” Milano said.
Due to continuing precautions, the event was scaled back for the second year in a row to accommodate patients whose families cannot afford care, serving about 30 families with children.
Next year, organizers hope to be able to return to a full event. In past years, they have seen more than 200 children in one day.
The DCG has been hosting Give Kids A Smile events since 2003, the first year the ADA launched the initiative. Each year, about 350,000 to 400,000 children benefit from more than 1,500 events, all because of the efforts of 40,000 or more annual volunteers nationwide.