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February 18, 2005

Third Annual "Give Kids a Smile" Day Takes Place at ULM's Dental Hygiene Department

The Department of Dental Hygiene at the University of Louisiana at Monroe teamed with the Northeast Louisiana Dental Association, the Boys & Girls Clubs of West Monroe and Crest Healthy Smiles 2010 on February 18 to bring the third annual "Give Kids a Smile" program to local underserved children.

At least 19 area children involved with the Boys & Girls Clubs of West Monroe benefited from the free examinations and dental cleanings before walking away with Crest sponsored goodie bags containing an electric spin brush, a regular toothbrush, toothpaste, stickers and a parents' guide to proper oral hygiene for the children. The children could also do all this with style, thanks to the free sunglasses provided to them (serving both to block out the dental lights and prevent splatter of materials used for the cleaning).

"This is kind of an extension of our national partnership," Tom Morris, executive director of the West Monroe Boys & Girls Clubs, said. "Our mission is to reach all kids, especially disadvantaged ones. It is partnerships like this one with the dentists and the university that enable our members to receive the care they need, so they can grow up knowing how to create and maintain healthy smiles."

"It involves cleaning and screening, and if the kids need additional dental work, we send them to one of our offices free-of-charge," Dr. Lane Eddleman, one of the six participating local dentists, said.

The American Dental Association (ADA) began "Give Kids a Smile" as a means of focusing attention on the large amount of oral disease affecting low-income families, particularly children.

As quoted from the Crest Dental ResourceNet website, "Dental decay is the most common disease affecting U.S. children, occurring at five times the rate of asthma and seven times that of hay fever. Millions of children suffer from untreated, easily preventable oral diseases that affect overall health, including speech, eating patterns and ability to concentrate in school."

And given the scope of the problem, the Department of Dental Hygiene naturally lends its time, resources and location to help improve the situation. Though the dental hygiene students already serve rotations at other local outreach services as part of their program, "Give Kids a Smile" allows an even greater chance of community building as well as putting younger patients at ease around dentists during what could be their first visit.

"You have to put everything on a different level when kids are involved," Sunni Goodwin, a Winnsboro senior, said. "You have to be more patient and even call things by different names"-referring, for example, to the saliva suction device's nickname of Mr. Slurpy.

"I enjoy the rotations," Erin Burr, a Natchitoches senior, said. "We get the patients who hardly ever go to the dentist, and they get the treatment they need."

John Roberson of the Northeast Louisiana Dental Association expressed his appreciation at being able to partner with the university in this effort.

"Thanks to this public-private partnership, we can make a difference in the lives of a large number of children in our area. There's a lot of camaraderie. It's just getting bigger and better every year," Roberson said.

In addition to the children helped at "Give Kids a Smile," ULM students may receive treatment at the dental hygiene clinic located in Caldwell Hall Mondays through Thursdays from 1-5 p.m. Students receive an initial screening appointment (that costs $3) to assess their dental situation. The total cost for further treatment that involves a complete cleaning is $30. Of course, making appointments is necessary and advised.


By Sara Palazzo

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