More Than 200 Children Get Free Dental Care as Part of National "Give Kids a Smile" Program

02/20/03    Portland, Ore.

More than 200 school-aged children from Multnomah County will be given free, and often urgent, dental care. Friday, Feb. 21 from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in the OHSU School of Dentistry clinic.

The event is part of the national "Give Kids a Smile Day" sponsored by the American Dental Association. This day is intended to provide dental care to children from low-income, uninsured families. OHSU treats many children who fit this description on a regular basis, but this day will provide OHSU faculty and dental students with the opportunity to partner with dentists from private practice to meet the needs of many children in a short time period. More than 200 volunteers including practicing and student dentists, hygienists and dental assistants will be at OHSU for the day.

This event fills an increasing need in the dental health of Oregon's uninsured and underinsured children, according to Rebecca Slayton, D.D.S., M.S., Ph.D., chairwoman of pediatric dentistry and associate professor of dentistry in the OHSU School of Dentistry.

"Dental caries (tooth decay) and access to care for children is a problem nationwide. In eastern Oregon, the rate of dental disease among families with limited resources is staggering. It is rare to see a child with healthy teeth in the predoctoral clinic at the OHSU School of Dentistry. Many of the children we see have such extensive dental needs that it takes five or more appointments to complete their care. There is a shortage of pediatric dentists in Oregon and in the nation. This adds to the access problem for underserved children because younger children with extensive needs frequently require treatment under general anesthesia by a pediatric dentist," Slayton said.

This trend is also a national concern. According to the 2000 Surgeon General's Report:

  • Tooth decay is the single most common chronic childhood disease, five times more common than asthma.
       
  • More than 51 million school hours are lost each year to dental-related illnesses.
       
  • There are striking disparities in dental disease by income. Poor children suffer twice as much tooth decay as more affluent children.

The OHSU School of Dentistry will be partnering with the Multnomah Dental Society, the Multnomah County Department of Health and Multnomah County schools. Additional sites for the "Give Kids a Smile Day" include the county clinics at 600 N.E. 8th St. and N.E. Burnside, both in Gresham. Each of these clinics will treat about a dozen children.

###