The sixth annual “Give Kids a Smile Day” took place Friday at the Huron County General Health District’s Norwalk office, with about 50 children participating in the free dental screenings.
The event is part of a national effort and sponsored locally by the North Central Ohio Dental Society.
Local dentists donated their time and skills to provide the free screenings for youngsters up to age 18. The screenings, which are intended to serve children who do not have access to a dentist, included pre-cancer screening, soft and hard tissue inspection, and oral hygiene instruction on brushing and flossing.
Those with an immediate need for dental services and an inability to pay for the needed follow-up care are referred to the dental options program.
Dr. Joseph Kim, who organized the local effort, called the screenings “very successful.” While the number of participants was down from last year’s total of 68, the weather may have played a factor. Freezing rain forced all Huron County schools to close Friday.
“Lack of dentistry is the No. 1 unmet child healthcare need in Ohio. That is just a documented fact, Kim said, citing four recent surveys: 2004 Ohio Family Health Survey, 2004 Behavioral Risk Factor Survey, and the Ohio Third Grade (2004-05) and Head Start (2002-03) Oral Health Surveys.
According to last year’s county health assessment, Huron County was tied for the fewest youth in Northwest Ohio who had regular dental visits. Only 65 percent of Huron County’s children had seen a dentist in the past year.
“Give Kids a Smile Day is not the answer to Huron County’s dental access problem, but it is a start,” said Tim Hollinger, Huron County health commissioner. “We are grateful to our dentists who are willing to volunteer their time to screen as many as 80 children who would not otherwise see a dentist.”
In addition to Kim, local dentists who participated Friday include Drs. Bart Colahan, David Heidelberg, James Loch, Julie Roberts, Adam Sommers and Norm Sommers.
Kim also credited the county nursing director and her staff, calling them “an outstanding staff — the whole city needs to recognize that.”