January 21, 2011

Annual 'Give Kids A Smile Day' set for Feb. 4

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Proper dental health begins at an early age and can last a lifetime.

In tight economic times, however, receiving regular dental care can be among the first necessities crossed off the list when families factor in utility, shelter and food costs.

The annual “Give Kids A Smile Day” at Southern Illinois University Carbondale offers children in the region a chance to receive free dental care. The SIUC Dental Hygiene Program, in conjunction with the Southern Illinois Dental Society and the Southern Illinois Dental Hygiene Society, will provide the service on Friday, Feb. 4.

The event runs from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the SIUC Community Dental Center, which is west of the SIU Arena.

Media Advisory

Reporters, photographers and camera crews are welcome to cover the event at the SIUC Community Dental Center. For more information, contact Jennifer M. Meyer, assistant instructor and “Give Kids a Smile Day” coordinator, at 618/453-7202.

Jennifer M. Meyer, a clinical instructor for the Dental Hygiene Program and coordinator of “Give Kids a Smile Day,” has watched the program grow since its start in 2003 when between 40 and 50 children participated.

Meyer anticipates between 240 and 245 children will participate this year. The free dental care is open to all children ages 2-14 who do not receive regular dental treatment and do not have regular access to dental care.

About 115 students and 19 faculty members from the University’s Dental Hygiene Program, along with several volunteer dentists and hygienists, will provide the free care, Meyer said. Other community dental professionals donate supplies and other items.

Appointments are preferred. To make an appointment, call the center at 618/453-8826 and specify the visit is for “Give Kids a Smile Day.”

Participating children will receive dental examinations, x-rays, cleanings, fluoride treatments, sealants, and fillings or simple extractions under special circumstances. The program will also work to find a “dental home” for patients if there is a need for additional treatment.

The consequences of not receiving proper dental care can be ominous, Meyer said, noting that children can die due to abscesses and poor dental health.

“If we do the preventive care for the children and catch something early a small cavity can stay small, rather than letting it progress over time and turn into a very large problem,” Meyer said.

The event is also important for students who are able to hone their skills with a different population, Meyer said. Because a majority of patients who come to the dental clinic are adults, being able to interact with child patients is “extremely important” for students who will enter private practice after they graduate.

It also is a benefit that children interact with the dental community early in life, Meyer said.

“The earlier you bring them in to be seen by a dentist the more comfortable they are going to be, and the more likely they will keep up with frequent visits,” she said.

The Dental Hygiene Program is in the School of Allied Health. Dr. Dwayne G. Summers, clinical associate professor, is director of the program, which is a component of the College of Applied Sciences and Arts.