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ADA 'Give Kids A Smile' Events Provide Dental Care to Children from Low-Income Families

CHICAGO, Feb. 2 /PRNewswire/ -- With dental disease among pre-schoolers on the rise, the American Dental Association (ADA) is mobilizing dental professionals in a national campaign to extend necessary care to children and adolescents from low-income families.

On Feb. 6, during the seventh annual ADA Give Kids A Smile(R) program, some 45,000 dental professionals will provide free services to as many as 500,000 children at more than 1,600 sites. St. Louis Cardinal first baseman and National League MVP Albert Pujols has joined with the ADA to support Give Kids A Smile by starring in several television public service announcements.

Give Kids A Smile (GKAS) is the ADA's major oral health outreach program, launched to encourage parents, health professionals and policymakers to address this important health issue. GKAS will provide educational materials, screenings and, where possible, free dental care such as cleanings, X-rays and fillings.

Participating dentists and dental team members hope to diminish the current four percent rise in dental caries (cavities) -- the first rise in 50 years -- among pre-schoolers, ages 2-5, reported by the CDC in April 2007.

"There have been enormous advances in dental science in recent years but among America's low-income and minority children, oral health is still a critically unmet health care need," said ADA President John S. Findley, D.D.S. "Though many children will benefit from the services provided through Give Kids A Smile, our concern is for the countless others who continue to suffer from untreated dental disease. Oral health is related to overall health and it's important that policymakers strengthen dental provisions in public health programs to help put children on the road to good health!"

Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease affecting American children, five times more common than asthma. The ADA recommends that children see a dentist no later than their first birthday; however less than half (48-percent) of children entering kindergarten have seen a dentist within the past year and more than half (52-percent) of children ages six to eight have tooth decay, according to the Healthy People 2010 oral health update.

Give Kids A Smile events take place during February's National Children's Dental Health Month, through the volunteer efforts of dentists and dental team members and the generous support of corporate sponsors. In 2009, the Colgate-Palmolive Company will supply 300,000 toothbrushes and 300,000 tubes of toothpaste for GKAS events; DEXIS Digital X-ray will lend one DEXIS Digital X-ray system and support staff to each participating U.S. dental school; Henry Schein Dental will provide professional dental kits containing gloves, masks, patient bibs, dental floss, prophy paste and fluoride products.

The ADA continues to support legislation to improve access to oral health care, like the Children's Dental Health Improvement Act of 2007 and last year's "Deamonte's Law," a bill named for the child who died in Maryland. At home, the ADA urges parents to make sure their children brush twice daily with fluoride toothpaste, floss daily, eat a balanced diet and see their dentist regularly to address tooth decay in its earliest stages.

SOURCE American Dental Association
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