Louisville’s dental health partnership in the national spotlight
American Dental Association highlights Smile Kentucky!’s success
(February 1, 2013) For some it was their first trip to the dentist; for others, it was the opportunity to get rid of a toothache. Today, nearly 300 children received free, comprehensive dental treatment as part of Smile Kentucky! The treatment took place at the University of Louisville School of Dentistry where in a matter of a few hours nearly $100,000 in free dentistry was completed.
The students were from 23 schools in Jefferson, Bullitt, Oldham, Trimble, Shelby and Meade Counties. Their dental needs were identified during free screenings at their school. While at the dental school each child received a check-up and x-rays and restorative care including a cavity filled if needed. The effort is a huge undertaking for one day – the dental school suspends its normal clinical operations and devotes over 100 faculty and students. Local dentists and hygienists volunteer their time and over 200 community volunteers help with the logistics that include transportation, paperwork, security and even snacks. Volunteers work to make the visit a positive experience and if the care cannot be completed, the child is invited back for free follow-up.
Smile Kentucky! complements a national effort by the American Dental Association (ADA) to address the most common, chronic disease – tooth decay. February 1 is a national treatment day and the ADA chose Louisville as its kickoff site, noting the program’s success in building community partnerships to improve children’s oral health. “Smile Kentucky! is a terrific program that helps us showcase the great work of dentists and their teams in helping provide care to people who need it,” said ADA President Robert A. Faiella, DMD., M.M. Sc. “It’s a shame that dental disease is the most common chronic childhood disease when it’s something that can be prevented with proper oral hygiene and regular dental visits.”
Smile Kentucky! includes over 50 partner agencies that provide dental education, screenings and treatment. The program was created in 2002 by Louisville Water Company, Louisville Dental Society, UofL School of Dentistry and Colgate. Since it began, the program has provided dental education to over 139,000 children, free screenings to over 40,000 children and over $1 million in free dentistry to over 3,300 children.
“Community engagement is a strategic mission of the university,” said UofL President James Ramsey. “Last year alone, UofL faculty, staff and students logged more than 360,000 hours of community service through more than 800 partnerships – Smile Kentucky is one example of that commitment.”
“One of our top goals in Louisville is to create a much healthier city for people of all ages, no matter their background or where they live,” said Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer. “Smile Kentucky! is a world-class model of collaboration.”
Tooth decay affects approximately 28% of U.S. children ages 2-5 years old and 58% of children ages 12-15 years old, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Statistics from Smile Kentucky! show that nearly a third of the children screened have obvious dental decay.
Smile Kentucky! works directly with school districts in Jefferson and surrounding counties. The program visits approximately 25 schools each year with education, dental screenings and treatment. The education aspect of Smile Kentucky! is available statewide and includes a curriculum, experiment kits and a video on sugar.