SANTA CRUZ — Dientes Community Dental Care celebrated Give Kids A Smile Day on Feb. 9 by partnering with six volunteer hygienists from the Monterey Bay Dental Hygienists’ Association to provide 48 uninsured children with free dental care.
Funding for the event was provided in part by donations through the 2018 Santa Cruz Gives campaign, 100 Women Who Care, as well as sponsorship from Kaiser Permanente. The value of services provided totaled nearly $30,000 and included oral health exams, cleanings, fluoride treatments, sealants, extractions and restorative care.
Santa Cruz Community Health Centers and Second Harvest Food Bank attended the event to provide patients with information on Medi-Cal enrollment and Cal Fresh.
Dientes’ local needs assessment found that 24 percent of Santa Cruz County Pre-K children have untreated tooth decay. According to the Centers for Disease Control, tooth decay — cavities — is the most common chronic illness among children and is four times more common than asthma.
Several patients seen at Give Kids A Smile Day were originally seen at Dientes’ Outreach Program, which runs at 26 schools throughout Santa Cruz County and provides on-site dental care.
“Our goal is to make prevention more common than treatment,” said Dientes Chief Executive Officer Laura Marcus. “By providing essential dental care to children at Give Kids A Smile Day, we help educate families on the importance of dental hygiene and demonstrate preventative practices so that kids can avoid treatment down the line.”
February is National Children’s Dental Health Month. As part of the month of recognition, the American Dental Association launched Give Kids A Smile Day in 2003. Now the event has grown to coordinate thousands of dentists benefiting approximately 350,000 kids each year.
This is Dientes’ 15th year of providing free care for kids.
“I am so happy to be a part of this annual event that gives back to the children in our community,” said Leslie Gonzales, RDH, BS of the Monterey Bay Dental Hygienists’ Association, “bringing smiles to their faces and to ours.”