July 29, 2011

Grant will enhance annual 'Give Kids A Smile Day'

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- An American Dental Association grant will help Southern Illinois University Carbondale's Dental Hygiene Program enhance the annual "Give Kids A Smile Day."

A “Give Kids A Smile Continuity of Care Grant” received earlier this month will allow the program to establish a computer-based case management system for participating children. The annual event, which will mark its 10th anniversary on Feb. 3, provides free dental care to children in the region.

Jennifer M. Meyer, a clinical instructor for the Dental Hygiene Program and coordinator of “Give Kids a Smile Day,” and Jennifer S. Sherry, an assistant professor in the program, worked together in submitting the proposal.

“This is the first time they offered the grant so receiving it was wonderful,” Meyer said. “We are glad to receive the software.”

The funds will allow the program to move away from paper-heavy patient files into a more user-friendly computer software system that was cost-prohibitive without the grant, Meyer said. The system will allow the clinic to better track patient appointments rather than combing through the files of more than 240 paper charts.

“Finishing the treatment is obviously the most important goal,” she said.

Charla J. Lautar, professor and director of the School of Allied Health, said while dental exams and preventive dental hygiene services are provided through “Give Kids A Smile Day,” further treatment needs “are difficult to obtain for those patients who are uninsured or underinsured.”

The grant will fund a referral system “that involves a holistic approach to treat these children’s dental needs,” Lautar said. That includes areas of identifying patients, increasing access to care, translation services when needed, and purchasing equipment and supplies, she said.

The program is in the School of Allied Health, part of the College of Applied Sciences and Arts.

Approximately 240 children received free dental care in February. 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.

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

Dental hygiene students, faculty members, and several volunteer dentists and hygienists provide the free care during the event. Other community dental professionals donate supplies and other items.

Meyer said that parents who are interested in their children participating in the 2012 “Give Kids a Smile Day” on Friday, Feb. 3, can begin calling the SIUC Community Dental Center in mid-December. Appointments are preferred. To make an appointment starting in mid-December, call the center at 618/453-8826 and specify the visit is for “Give Kids a Smile Day.”