Finding free dental care for kids can be tough, especially for families with limited access to WiFi or news sources. Yet being seen by a dentist is incredibly important, especially for children.
What are the advantages of getting oral healthcare early? For one, it helps youngsters understand how to take proper care of their teeth and gums. By the time Americans reach adulthood, around 120 million of them have already lost one tooth, if not several teeth. Kids who recognize how and when to brush and floss will be able to take care of their teeth properly.
Another benefit of free dental care for kids is that children are less likely to fear the dentist. Dental anxiety is a real problem and keeps younger and older people away from the dentist’s chair. Knowing early that dentistry doesn’t have to be painful or anxiety-inducing is a good thing.
Whether you’re a dental provider looking for a new way to give back to your community, or you’re a reader in search of a feel-good story, you’ll appreciate the five free dental care for kids initiatives listed below. Each one is a testament to how ordinary people have the capacity to do extraordinary things for strangers.
Volunteer Trip to the Dominican Republic
For many children living in developing countries, the question isn’t whether they should get free dental care for kids. It’s whether there is any free dental care for kids for them to have in the first place.
Some areas in the Dominican Republic include many families living in poverty. As such, they tend to downplay going to any kind of doctor, including a dentist. That’s why one Virginia-based group of dentists decided to take a trip to the Caribbean to offer some free dental care for kids.
The volunteers from Shenandoah Valley Orthodontics, which included dentists and orthodontists, traveled thousands of miles to improve children’s smiles. Leveraging money they earned, as well as assistance received from a partnership with the World Mission Partners, the volunteer professionals had only half a day to see as many kids as they could. However, everyone made the most of their time by being as efficient as possible.
The result was not only free dental care for kids but also an education on tooth decay. Despite the language barrier between the kids and the volunteers, the residents receiving complimentary extraction and fluoride treatments learned more about better ways to keep their teeth free from plaque build-up.
At the end of the day, all of the volunteering dental providers said their spirits were buoyed after being able to give free dental care for kids who wouldn’t have access otherwise.
Why this story matters: Americans tend to take for granted their ability to go to a dentist. If you haven’t seen your dental provider in a while, or you need a new family dentist, pick up the phone or explore dental providers on the Internet. Be sure you’re scheduling an appointment for your kids, too. You might be financially stable enough to not need to seek out free dental care for kids, but that doesn’t mean your children don’t need to be seen by a dentist at least once every six months. They do.
National Children’s Dental Health Month
Affordability. It’s a top reason a lot of parents don’t take their children to any physicians, let alone the dentist. Even moms and dads who could receive employer-based dental insurance through insurance companies may not be able to contribute to a copay or monthly premium. Therefore, many preschoolers and elementary-age students go years without ever sitting in a dentist’s chair.
One Scranton dental practice has decided to take matters into its employees’ hands. This coming February, National Children’s Dental Health Month, will be accompanied by free dental care for kids. On a Saturday, up-and-coming dental hygienists will spend the full day cleaning kids’ teeth, applying sealants, and performing x-rays under the watchful eye of practicing dentists and other dental professionals.
The dental clinic services event, held at Fortis Dental Institute Hygiene Clinic and referred to as “Give a Kid a Smile Day!”, is now in its eighth year. Since its inception, participation in free dental care for kids has steadily risen. This could be a result of better press year after year, or it might be a telling indicator that children across the United States are increasingly at risk of not being introduced to dental care.
What happens to the parents of the children who receive free dental care for kids? They’re not left without options. The clinic actually hosts appointment-based low-cost dental treatments during the week throughout the month, too. All parents need to do is get in touch with the clinic to arrange a time to make sure they don’t have serious oral health problems.
Why this recognition of dental health matters: Certain dental problems like gingivitis, progressive gum disease, gum recession, disorders of the jaw, misaligned bites, and jawbone loss can lead to devastating and uncomfortable health issues. By taking away the financial burden of going to the dentist, volunteer dentists and hygienists are paving the way for more low-income kids and adults to feel healthier and more confident in their smiles.
Great Start Collaborative Initiative
Some people can’t even afford to see a primary care physician, let alone a dentist. So how can they get their teeth cleaned when they’re not even keeping up with annual physicals or check-ups? One way to maintain proper oral health is by seeking free dental care for kids for the young people in low-income families’ households.
In Manistee County, Michigan, the region’s Great Start Collaborative has launched free dental care for kids in 2020. The organization’s goal is multifold; they are not only looking to connect families with compassionate restorative, family, cosmetic, and pediatric dentists. The experience is also meant to screen children for signs of oral cancer.
Oral cancer can be a devastating diagnosis for anyone, especially a young person. Though rare in children and teens, it can happen. However, dentists are often the first line of defense when it comes to spotting possible oral cancer signs, such as unusual bumps on the tongue and lesions on the gums, inner cheeks, palate, throat, or tongue.
Of course, the free dental care for kids will also involve some fun activities, too, such as handing out dental-related goodie bags. Never underestimate how exciting it can be for a kid to get a new toothbrush and toothpaste to call their own. Plenty of children in financially insecure homes don’t have proper tooth-cleaning products. However, in Manistee County, dozens will.
Why education on oral cancer is essential: Mothers and fathers aren’t necessarily tuned in to the idea of oral cancer or any cancer of the mouth. Neither are kids, but they deserve to learn how oral cancer can affect the whole body. They also deserve to find out at a young age that certain lifestyle choices, such as smoking and using smokeless nicotine products, can lead to the development of some oral cancers or even lung or esophageal cancer.
Smile Big Richland
Never let it be said that Ohio isn’t doing its best to put itself on the map as a place where families can find free dental care for kids. Before the holiday season, Richland Public Health’s initiative called “Smile Big Richland” went live. The program is meant to teach children about the realities of tooth decay, which is a topic that many youngsters and adults take for granted.
Contrary to popular belief, cavities don’t have to be a part of growing up. In fact, people who get cared for by a dentist can often bypass tooth decay because the dentist is able to head off problems before they start.
The Smile Big Richland project includes handing out kids care backpacks chocked full of all sorts of personal hygiene product must-haves. These include tooth floss, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and fun surprises. A coupon for free fluoride treatment is even tucked away in the backpack, which enables children under six years old to get free dental care for kids. Fluoride is a mineral that’s frequently added to municipal water supplies. However, some families may not drink water from those supplies, which leaves very young children at a disadvantage because they’re not getting exposed to fluoride to build healthier teeth.
Of course, the backpacks handed out by Smile Big Richard are a treat for kids who may have been using the same backpacks for years, or whose school backpacks were handed down from older siblings. In fact, Richland Public Health has been actively seeking businesses, health care agencies, and individuals to help distribute the backpacks to areas of highest need in and around the community.
Why tooth decay is important to recognize: Dentists are trained to take cavities seriously. There’s a reason for their training, which is that cavities have been linked to other problems. In kids, one linked issue is poor grades. This could be caused by a loss of confidence, which is certainly possible when kids feel uncomfortable about their smiles or live with tooth and gum pain.
Dental Services for Mississippians
In just a few months, the Jackson Free Clinic reached its GoFundMe goal of $75,000. What was the money going to be used for? You guessed it: At least part was to go towards free dental care for kids.
The successful fundraising effort now allows the charity, which is a part of the University of Mississippi Medical Center, to serve needy families and children. To be sure, the clinic has already been open to providing local dentist services to people. For three years, people from nearly 100 cities around the state have flocked to the clinic to obtain dental work that they couldn’t pay for out of pocket. The money will allow the clinic to more easily offset its expenses and potentially offer more reduced and free dental care for kids and adults by retrofitting a building that’s situated next to the main clinic’s headquarters.
In addition to hosting dental treatments, the clinic also offers other kinds of low-cost healthcare solutions like therapy, mental health counseling, and rehabilitation treatments.
What’s magnificent about a clinic for those without healthcare: Unfortunately, even with employer-offered health care including dental and eye visit care, many folks just don’t have the income to take advantage of packages and plans. Some families can’t pay for one trip to a dentist, let alone the expenses of orthodontic billing or of something more extensive like the placement of porcelain veneers. For them, being able to check off all of their healthcare needs in one location is efficient as well as streamlines all of their doctor visits into one doable trip.
Will the World See More Free Dental Care for Kids?
At this point, the global pandemic has affected people around the world in numerous ways. Some moms and dads who used to make comfortable livings no longer have jobs and are scrambling to pay mortgages and rent. Other families are just barely getting by and are in need of performing a sort of “triage” by limiting how often they go to doctors, dentists, and orthodontists.
Though this is a scary proposition, it opens doors for people and businesses that are in a position to do some amazing things. Performing random acts of kindness seems to be a common thread among those who have chosen medical careers. Consequently, it might not be a huge surprise to see more initiatives for free dental care for kids pop up in neighborhoods around the nation and globe.
If you’ve been financially blessed and are looking for opportunities to help people near to you or in faraway places, talk with a local dentist or university-led dental clinic. Your dollars could go farther than you might think in helping a child get fluoride treatment for the first time or have a decayed tooth fixed before it becomes too far gone to rescue. With even a modest donation, you could help provide free dental care for kids without having to be a dentist or hygienist yourself.