The month of February marks National Childrens Dental Health Month, a time for highlighting the importance of good oral health for children. Each year during this time, Idaho dental professionals gear up for Give Kids A Smile a volunteer program that provides free dental care to uninsured and underserved families who cannot otherwise afford care.
More than 1,300 children were treated during February 2012 as part of Idahos 10th annual Give Kids A Smile. This year, the Idaho State Dental Associations Dental Foundation and Delta Dental are collaborating with the great folks who run the 2-1-1 Idaho CareLine to streamline the sign-up process. Parents are encouraged to call 2-1-1 to get their child registered.
With the economic downturn, weve seen a growing need among children in our state over the past few years. Therefore, we are very pleased to help organize this large and growing volunteer effort so dentists can focus on delivering quality care to Idahos underserved children free of charge.
Charity care has always been an important part of dentistry. The Give Kids A Smile program is just one example of how the profession is committed to ensuring that Idahos children have access to dental care. Last year the Idaho State Dental Association set a goal to provide 10,000 smiles throughout the year. The goal was exceeded by its members, and continues to be part of ongoing efforts to ensure children have access to much needed oral care.
At a time when our economy has struggled and recovery is sluggish, we know there is great need for affordable and accessible care. At the same time, we recognize that volunteer safety-net programs are not a sustainable oral health care system. Give Kids A Smile is meant to accomplish two things help children get the dental care they need and raise awareness that our children deserve a better health care system that addresses their oral health needs.
Oral health should be a priority for all children and their families in Idaho, but education and prevention are only part of the equation. We also would urge common sense, market-based solutions and reforms that allow more dentists to participate in our public health insurance programs. Economic circumstances shouldnt be a barrier to a childs bright, healthy smile. If you know a child who is in need of care, encourage their parent or guardian to call 2-1-1 today to get scheduled in February for an appointment.
Jack Klure, DDS, is from Meridian. He is president of the Idaho State Dental Association.