Wow, after 2020 lasting a decade, this month sure flew by! We await February with bated breath, you remember? Children’s National Dental Health Month!
This is the year that the national Give Kids A Smile Day is 20 years old. Dentists from across the nation call attention to the dental needs of less fortunate kids and provide free dental care. It’s estimated over 40,000 volunteers will see 300,000 kids for GKAS. We are no exception and will be taking time to provide care for about 12 kids on Feb 5th. These kids have no dental insurance and were identified by their school nurses as needing care. It is usually a fun day with playing and pizza, but this year we are following the CDC guidelines. Still, we hope it’s a day with deserving kids getting essential health care at Big Grins.
Hard to believe, but I remember doing free dental days before GKAS. The staff would volunteer and we would do comprehensive care on as many kids as signed up. Those were the days when Fort Collins did not have a private Medicaid provider, we were it. Now things have changed, up to 92% of kids have some form of dental insurance (about 30% have state-regulated and funded Medicaid), and last time I counted Fort Collins had over 14 Medicaid providers. Still, we have a population with no insurance, little access to care, and barriers such a language and transportation issues. Those are the kiddos we now focus on for GKAS.
Over the last two decades, our office has provided over $100,000 in free dentistry on GKAS day. If you multiply that by the other offices that take part — Dr. Geoff Engelhardt, Dr. Keith Van Tassell, Dr. Jennifer Hargleroad, to name a few — local dentists make a big impact in the lives of many children. One year we had an 11-year-old call-up and scheduled her own appointment on GKAS day! We had seen her the year before and she was on the ball for the next date.
Cavities remain the number one disease of childhood, and given its chronic disease model, treating kids can have big ramifications for adult dental health. What a great community we live in that all children, regardless of economic realities, can get the care they need. And that care isn’t just one day. Thanks to the many agencies we work with such as Project Smile, Salud, the Migrant Workers health care program, Project Self Sufficiency and others, no kid in Fort Collins should ever go to bed with a toothache.
Yes, we still do outreach to our schools! This year, it’s a virtual program of instructional videos and brushing supplies for all kindergarten and first-grade classes who request it. That’s about 750 kids. Because at the end of the day, I like to say we are building the blocks necessary to raise healthy and happy children. That goal has been my goal for more than two decades and counting! For questions about GKAS or any other dental topic, call me at 970 481 6728 or firstname.lastname@example.org.