Children's Dental Day Marks Many "First Visits" for Area Kids


Children'sDental Day at the UNMC College of Dentistry in Lincoln is highly anticipated eachyear. The event is held on the first Friday in February, and provides access todental care for nearly 200 needy children from central and eastern Nebraska everyyear.

Thisyear children from nine communities across Nebraska will visit the college onFeb. 7 where dental faculty, staff and students will be waiting to whisk themthrough a day of carnival games, cleanings and in some cases extractions,fillings and root canals.

Since2001, nearly 5,000 children have received over $2 million in care. This yearchildren from Lexington and surrounding communities, Norfolk, Madison,Stanton, Wayne, Crete, Hastings, York and Lincoln are expected to attend.

Someof these children will be seeing a dentist for the first time.

"It'sestimated that about 25 percent of the children in the U.S. experience 80percent of the decay," said John Reinhardt, D.D.S., dean of the UNMC College ofDentistry. "Those are the under-served children we are trying to help. Toothdecay can affect a child's ability to eat, to speak, to adapt socially becauseof an unattractive appearance, to pay attention in school and their overallquality of life."

Allof the children participating in the event are identified and pre-screened intheir communities by volunteers, including school nurses, members offaith-based organizations, Head Start, dentists and dental hygienists.

Volunteersdonate their time to identify needy children, provide oral health screeningsthat indicate the type of care the children will need when they come to thecollege, and in many cases, come with the children for emotional support andtranslation services.

Whileupper level dental and dental hygiene students work in the clinics, many of thefirst-year students facilitate games with the children, including those that teachgood snack choices, how soda pop affects their teeth, what decay looks like andhow to brush and floss.

Lunchand healthy snacks also are provided and each child receives a goody bag of items,including a toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, activity book and stickers to takehome with them.

Thedental and dental hygiene students will once again be joined by nursingstudents from the UNMC College of Nursing Lincoln division, who will provide wellchild checks, as well as learn how dental health affects a person's overallhealth.
"This event not only provides badly needed care for under-served children,but also strengthens the spirit of volunteerism among our students, faculty,and staff," said David Brown, Ph.D., executive associate dean, UNMCCollege of Dentistry and the coordinator of the event.

"We give a lot on Children's Dental Day butI think we receive even more."