Dientes Helps 38 Children Receive Free Dental Care
February 3 marked a day of smiles for many underserved kids in our community. Dientes Community Dental Care celebrated Give Kids A Smile Day by partnering with 5 volunteer hygienists from the Monterey Bay Dental Hygienists’ Association to provide 38 uninsured children with free dental care.
Funding for this event was provided in part by donations through the 2017 Santa Cruz Gives campaign, as well as generous sponsorships from Bank of America and Kaiser Permanente. The value of services provided totaled nearly $28,000 and included oral health exams, cleanings, fluoride treatments, sealants, extractions and restorative care.
Dientes’ recent needs assessment found that nearly 31% of all Santa Cruz County children have never been to the dentist. This can lead to school absenteeism. According to the Centers for Disease Control, tooth decay — cavities — is the most common chronic illness among children and is four times more common than childhood asthma.
“With cost being a significant barrier-to-care and prevention the key, Dientes’ Give Kids A Smile Day couldn’t be more important for our community’s kids,” explains Interim Dientes Clinic Manager Samantha Paz. “This event helps identify and serve the kids who would otherwise fall through the cracks—families who don’t qualify for Medi-Cal and can’t afford discounted dental care at local clinics.”
Several patients seen at Give Kids A Smile Day were originally seen at Dientes’ Outreach Program, which runs at 17 elementary schools throughout Santa Cruz County and provides on-site treatment and oral health education to nearly 6,000 local kids.
Outreach Manager Nicole Mello describes, “The children we see at our Outreach locations have challenges getting to the dentist. Free care events like Give Kids A Smile Day make it easy for families who struggle to get the care they need for their kids. Our goal is to create a dental home for every patient so that we can help them focus on preventing decay, not just treating it.”
Kami, a Dientes patient and mother of two, was referred to the clinic by a local dentist after learning the cost of the treatment her son needed would total a few thousand dollars, which the uninsured family could not afford to pay out-of-pocket. After the referral, the whole family became patients at Dientes. She brought her 5-year old daughter, Kenley, to receive care on Give Kids A Smile Day. Kami said of the event, “It really relieves a financial burden, but also the staff here really knows how to treat kids. Kenley was so excited this morning, she kept asking ‘When are we going to the dentist?’”
February is National Children’s Dental Health Month. As a part of the month of recognition, the American Dental Association launched Give Kids A Smile Day in 2003. Now the event has grown to coordinate thousands of dentists benefiting approximately 350,000 kids each year. This is Dientes’ 14th year of providing free care for kids.
“It has been another successful year providing free dentistry and dental hygiene services to underserved children in our community,” said Leslie Gonzales, RDH, BS of the Monterey Bay Dental Hygienists’ Association. “For this we are so proud!”
Ninety-seven percent of Dientes Community Dental Care’s patients live at or below the poverty level. Dientes accepts Medi-Cal and offers sliding scale fees for uninsured patients. Dientes is a proud partner of United Way.
For more information about the Oral Health Strategic Plan 2017-2020 for Santa Cruz County, go to: http://oralhealthscc.org