Creating More Ways For Kids To Smile

John Yamamoto, DDS, MPH
Photo by Mallory LaSalvia.


Photo by Mallory LaSalvia.

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, and Dentistry Today is celebrating the event with a series of blogs focused on various aspects of pediatric care. #NCDHM

National Children’s Dental Health Month is a timely and important reminder that many children lack access to quality dental care, especially in underserved areas. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that from 2011 to 2014, 18.6% of children between the ages of 5 and 19 years had untreated dental caries. In 2016, only 84.6% of children aged 2 to 17 years had a dental visit in the previous year.

In an effort to help close this gap, the Delta Dental Community Care Foundation partnered with the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Dentistry to support UTHealth’s local communities through Give Kids A Smile Day on February 22.

Give Kids A Smile is a day of free oral health care for uninsured and underserved children in the Houston area. The Delta Dental Community Care Foundation provided a $40,000 grant for this year’s Give Kids A Smile event.

The UTHealth School of Dentistry and the Greater Houston Dental Society have been working together on the Give Kids A Smile program since 2003 when the ADA Foundation launched the program nationally as a way for dentists to join with others in their communities to provide dental services to children in need.

Each year, approximately 350 Houston-area children receive dental care through the program, which typically includes preventive treatments, simple extractions, and limited restorations. Last year, 340 children were prescreened, and the 293 children who attended the event received care worth an estimated $207,630.

More than 400 volunteers, including nearly 300 from the School of Dentistry, provided that much needed treatment. The Delta Dental Community Care Foundation grant will enable even more kids to receive care this year.

Months of planning go into Give Kids A Smile Day in Houston. Organizations such as Communities in Schools-Houston, the San Jose Clinic, Yellowstone Academy, and other local groups help identify children in need.

In the weeks prior to the event, UTHealth School of Dentistry sends its Ronald McDonald Care Mobile to schools to perform dental screening exams and take X-rays so individualized treatment plans are ready for the children on Give Kids A Smile Day. Faculty, staff, and students from the School of Dentistry work beside volunteer dentists and dental hygienists to provide treatments the children might not receive otherwise.

The grant to UTHealth School of Dentistry was one of 32 that the Delta Dental Community Care Foundation contributed in Texas to help improve the oral health of disadvantaged children and adults and remove barriers to quality dental care. Since it was established in 2011, the Delta Dental Community Care Foundation has awarded more than $4.7 million in grants to organizations throughout Texas.

Watch a video from UTHealth School of Dentistry to learn more about Give Kids A Smile Day.

Dr. Yamamoto is vice president of clinical services for Delta Dental Insurance Company and its affiliates. He is responsible for overseeing quality assessment, professional review, dental policy, and care innovation for the group of companies, covering 36 million enrollees across 15 states and the District of Columbia. He also serves on the board of directors of the Delta Dental Community Care Foundation.

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