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Give Kids A Smile turns 10

Feb. 1, 2011
Give Kids A Smile program in St. Louis will celebrate its 10th anniversary.

For more on this topic, go to www.dentaleconomics.com and search using the following key words: Give Kids A Smile, underserved, children, volunteers, Dr. Joe Blaes, Dr. Jeff Dalin.

Dr. Joe Blaes: Congratulations, Jeff! I hear that the Give Kids A Smile program in St. Louis will celebrate its 10th anniversary.

Dr. Jeff Dalin: That's right, Joe. We are proud to say that we are entering our 10th year. Our St. Louis Give Kids A Smile program has delivered more than $4 million worth of dental care to more than 9,500 children. Our mission statement from inception has been to bring caring volunteers and organizations together to deliver quality services to children. Our commitment is to the underserved, and we strive to mentor organizations and volunteers to help kids smile.

Dr. Blaes: Can you tell our readers how your program has evolved through the years?

Dr. Dalin: Each year we hold two, two-day clinics. At each clinic, more than 600 children receive full-service dental care. Each child spends up to three hours with us on those days. We have found that those with extensive needs cannot get everything done in that time period.

In reaction to this, we established a program called Smile Factories, where children are referred to practices in the St. Louis area to have their dental work completed. After running these clinics for a few years, we noticed that our youngest children (age 5 or so) often presented with rampant decay. We started to feel that we needed to reach these children and their parents at an even earlier age.

Because of this, Tiny Smiles was developed. In our Tiny Smiles program, we see kids from birth to age 4. This is an innovative program in which child and parent are engaged. A knee-to-knee exam is performed and education and instruction are given to the parent at the same time. Each child receives a fluoride varnish, and final recommendations are given to parents in terms of what treatment is needed.

We have learned that much of what we see and treat in our clinics can be prevented if some effort is made at home.

Dr. Blaes: I know that you are very proud of the fact that the American Dental Association adopted the Give Kids A Smile program as its National Children's Dental Access program.

Dr. Dalin: After our first clinic, we brought the concept of Give Kids A Smile to the American Dental Association. Access to care is a large problem in our country. The leadership of the ADA showed great insight in its adoption of a national Give Kids A Smile program. A national advisory board consisting of dentists, representatives from the dental industry, and staff from the ADA was created, and it has done some great work through the years.

The ADA Give Kids A Smile program will celebrate its 10th anniversary in 2012. Give Kids A Smile is something that has become much more than a day. The national advisory board has the following as its mission statement:

"We are the professional and industry alliance dedicated to the elimination of cavities in U.S. five-year-olds by 2020 through our ability to nurture and enhance community-based children's oral health and wellness programs that are expandable, sustainable, and innovative. We focus on three primary areas: program enhancement, fund-raising, and staging an annual symposium to highlight Give Kids A Smile program's promising practices."

The program enhancement committee identifies access-to-care programs with a history of significant achievement, or corporations that support Give Kids A Smile with significant resources. These programs have access to Give Kids A Smile grants and national publicity venues through ADA publications, media relations, and marketing.

There are eight programs that have championed the cause and joined us in building one central voice that advocates for oral health care for underserved children. Known as our program champions, they are the America's Dentist Care Foundation (Mission of Mercy), Team Smile, Henry Schein Cares' Healthy Children, Healthy Lifestyles, Colgate's Bright Smiles, Bright Futures, AAPD's Head Start Dental Home Initiative, National Museum of Dentistry, Smiles Change Lives, and National Association of School Nurses.

An organized fund-raising initiative continues to build the Give Kids A Smile fund within the ADA Foundation. The fund has been used to assist and grow new and exciting community-based access-to-care programs nationally. We now are working with the Hispanic Dental Association and the National Dental Association by allowing each to distribute some of these grants.

We are proud of our work with the Dental Trade Alliance Foundation, which cosponsors the Give Kids A Smile Promising Practices symposium. We have held four symposiums. They are opportunities for access-to-care program coordinators to come together and share ideas on how to enhance and improve local programs.

Dr. Blaes: Wow, Jeff! This is amazing! I know you have told me that there are some great resources online for those who want to get more information on these programs.

Dr. Dalin: Our St. Louis program has a great Web site with much useful information. Go to www.givekidsasmile.org. Be sure to visit www.ada.org/3462.aspx to check out a collection of resources that the ADA has assembled. At this site, you can find a toolbox with ideas for program planning, program promotion, and more (www.ada.org/3460.aspx). Proceedings from the four symposiums I mentioned have been published at www.ada.org/3459.aspx.

The Give Kids A Smile Awards Gala will be May 10, 2011, in Washington, D.C. It is a great place to spend an evening with ADA leadership, dental industry representatives, dental educators, and access-to-care program directors.

Dr. Blaes: Is there anything else you want to tell our readers?

Dr. Dalin: I have saved the most exciting news for last. The ADA GKAS advisory board is hard at work on the development of a national awareness and education campaign with Scholastic Books. We hope to reach every student and his or her family in our country.

This means more than 70 million students and their families, along with more than three million elementary school teachers, could be reached.

Watch for details on this program as it is rolled out in the next few years. As you can see, Give Kids A Smile is accomplishing some great things, both in St. Louis and around the country (and actually around the world). We as a profession can be proud of the fact that we have come together to address the access-to-care problem that is becoming all too prevalent in this country.

I would like to take this opportunity to invite all of the Dental Economics® readers to pitch in and help with this program.

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