A Million Dollar Smile
Smile Kentucky! marks 10 years of improving children’s dental health with over $1 Million in Free Treatment
LOUISVILLE, KY - - Friday, February 3, Smile Kentucky! will mark 10 years of community service in providing free dental education, screenings and treatment to children in Louisville Metro and surrounding counties. As over 270 children receive free dental treatment at the UofL School of Dentistry on February 3, the program will surpass $1 million dollars in free dentistry since 2002.
Smile Kentucky! is an example of a community partnership making a difference. What began as an idea to address tooth decay has grown into a state-wide dental education program and an avenue in providing access to dental care.
Smile Kentucky! was created in 2002 by Louisville Water, Louisville Dental Society, UofL School of Dentistry, Colgate, Sullivan Schein Dental, Northwest Area Health Education Center and Bullitt County Health Department. The program has grown to include over 20 agencies on the steering committee and over 150 groups providing time, materials and funding.
Since the program began, over 127,000 students in 143 schools in 11 counties have received classroom dental education programs, 35,000 have received a free dental screening at school and after the 2012 treatment day, over 3,000 children will have received free treatment.
“It’s a wonderful program,” said Arleta Watkins with Bullitt County Schools. “I’ve had children who’ve never had a dental exam before. They get that service for free.”
The American Dental Association calls Smile Kentucky! a model for community partnerships. Smile Kentucky! compliments a national program, “Give Kids a Smile.”
How Smile Kentucky! Works
Each year, Smile Kentucky! works with 30 elementary schools in Jefferson and surrounding counties. In the fall, every classroom receives a hands-on dental education program and children in grades 3-6 receive a free dental screening. Then, those children without dental insurance, government medical assistance or limited access to care are invited for free treatment. Smile Kentucky! eliminates the problem of access to care; children come to UofL School of Dentistry or private dental offices for free treatment during the month of February.
“Dental pain and infection is one of the leading causes for missed days at school and affects a child’s ability to concentrate. These students subsequently have lower grade point averages,” said John Sauk, DDS, MS, dean, UofL School of Dentistry. “The University of Louisville School of Dentistry is dedicated to improving the oral health of Kentucky’s children – that’s why we suspend our normal clinical operations the first Friday in February – in order to focus our entire facility, faculty, staff and students , over 300 people, to focus on the Smile Kentucky! effort,” Sauk said.
Taking the Message Statewide
The education part of Smile Kentucky! centers on real-world examples in improving dental health, specifically learning how diet impacts oral health. In February, Smile Kentucky! will provide teachers and health educators a free video to accompany a curriculum that teaches students how to measure sugar in snacks and drinks. A grant from the American Dental Association and funding from Delta Dental of Kentucky, Kentucky Dental Association, and Louisville Water has made the video production possible.
“Where’s the Sugar?” will illustrate how simple changes in diet can improve not only your smile but your overall health. The video is available at www.smilekentucky.com.
“The Louisville Dental Society and its members are very proud to volunteer and provide education and treatment to children in need,” said Dr. Karen Nation, President of the Louisville Dental Society. “I have been involved with this program since its inception and watched the program develop into a volunteer outreach effort throughout the Commonwealth. The children and dentists always walk away from Smile Kentucky! “smiling” – it’s a very rewarding endeavor.”
Smile Kentucky! is made possible through a steering committee that includes the following:
Bullitt County Board of Education
Bullitt County Health Department
Colgate Bright Smiles, Bright Futures
Jefferson County Public Schools
Henry Schein Dental
Louisville Dental Society
Louisville District Dental Hygienists Association
Louisville Metro Department of Public Health & Wellness
Louisville Water Company
MCNA Dental Plans of Kentucky
NorthWest Area Health Education Center
Prospect-Goshen Rotary Club
Transit Authority of the River City
UofL School of Dentistry