Photo courtesy of Minnesota Dental Association
For two days in February, 5,000 Minnesota kids will receive a dental exam complete with a cleaning, and if needed, fillings or sealants. And at each appointment’s end, the only acceptable form of payment will be a smile.
Now in its 14th year, the Minnesota Dental Association’s annual Give Kids A Smile event brings volunteering dental professionals together with kids who need their expertise. More than 150 dental offices across the state participate, bringing free care to kids who might not otherwise get it, helping to correct and prevent dental decay, which the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry reports is more common in children than asthma or obesity.
“It is rewarding to see not only the smiling faces of kids, but most of all, the smiling faces of appreciative parents,” says Dr. Teresa Fong, a pediatric dentist at Metropolitan Pediatric Dental Associates, Ltd. who has volunteered for the event since its inception.
The event is also a chance to bring dental education to more Minnesota families. “One year a very young child, around three years old, arrived at the clinic with a swollen upper front lip,” Fong recalls. “She hadn't been able to sleep or eat the day before her appointment. She had severe dental decay of her upper front teeth from being put to bed with a bottle of milk. We were able not only to remove the abscessed teeth, but also to provide the family with information on brushing and flossing their child's teeth and healthy habits to prevent future dental decay.”
More than 65,000 kids have received care through Give Kids A Smile since 2003. To schedule an appointment time, parents can call 2-1-1 or visit the event page.