Local events highlight disadvantaged children’s need for dental care

Feb. 2, 2011

WEST ALLIS, WIS., Jan. 31, 2011 – More than 5,150 low-income Wisconsin children are expected to receive some $740,000 in donated dental care this Friday, Feb. 4, and during upcoming weeks, as part of the ninth annual Give Kids A Smile® children’s dental access day. 



GKAS activities will occur statewide in private dental practices and large-scale dental clinics. At least 360 Wisconsin dentists, along with 950-plus dental team members, dental, hygiene and assisting students, faculty and community advocates will volunteer their time and skills to get underserved children out of pain and treat dental disease with fillings, extractions and crowns. Other GKAS events will involve dental professionals visiting schools and community centers to conduct screenings and provide oral hygiene education.



“It’s heartbreaking to see a child’s smile destroyed by severe tooth decay,” said Wisconsin Dental Association President Dr. Eugene Shoemaker, a general dentist in Waukesha, Wis. “Children can’t eat, sleep or pay attention in school when they have a toothache. Charity events like GKAS aren’t the ultimate answer to making sure every Wisconsin resident has access to oral health care, but our dental professionals are glad to donate their time and skills to this very worthy cause.”



The WDA and member dentists work with the state’s Department of Health Services, local government agencies, public schools, Head Start and local youth and community organizations to identify low-income children with the greatest need for dental treatment.



Cavities are a chronic disease and five times more common than asthma among our nation’s children according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ “Healthy People 2010” report. A Wisconsin Department of Health Services’ report notes 25 percent of the state’s Head Start children ages 3 and 4 have untreated decay and 33 percent have had cavities and now have fillings.



“Primary or baby teeth are very important to a child’s early physical, social and emotional development,” Shoemaker said. “Healthy baby teeth foster good nutrition through proper chewing, aid in speech development, build self-esteem by providing a beautiful smile, enable a child to pay attention and learn in school without the distraction of dental pain and save space in the jaw that is needed for proper development of permanent, adult teeth. Programs like GKAS help us get care to children who don’t have access to regular dental care.”



GKAS 2011 will be marked nationwide by 12,010 dentists joining with 33,115 other volunteers to provide care to 391,695 low-income children at 1,727 events.



These activities are supported with significant corporate donations from Colgate-Palmolive, Henry Schein Dental and DEXIS® Digital X-ray. WDA Insurance & Services Corporation offers pediatric dental forms to Wisconsin GKAS events through The Dental Record under its Professional Services Division.



In Wisconsin, $4.1 million in charitable dental care has been provided to 29,250 low-income children since 2003, when the WDA joined with the American Dental Association in launching GKAS during February’s National Children’s Dental Health Month.



GKAS is just one example of how Wisconsin dentists serve their communities and make a difference for underserved residents of all ages through charitable care in their private practices and by volunteering at community dental clinics, the WDA Mission of Mercy and other outreach programs explains Shoemaker.



“Dentists are doctors of oral health. We have the training and education to relieve pain and make people well — but we can't solve the state's dental crisis alone,” he said. “The WDA believes barriers to dental care can be reduced when policymakers and dentists work together on positive, viable ‘Healthy Choices’ for all state residents – children and adults. Ensuring residents have good oral health saves patients from dental pain and infection and is economically and socially important to our state.”



For an alphabetical listing of Wisconsin cities with GKAS events by region, please visit WDA.org.



The Wisconsin Dental Association was established in 1870. With more than 2,900 members statewide, the WDA represents 83 percent of all licensed, practicing dentists in Wisconsin. WDA members are committed to promoting professional excellence and quality oral health care. The WDA is headquartered in West Allis and has a legislative office in Madison. It is one of 53 constituent (state-territorial) dental societies of the American Dental Association - the largest and oldest national dental association in the world. For more information on the WDA, call 414-276-4520, visit our WDA.org website or find us on Facebook, Flickr, Twitter and YouTube.


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