SIDNEY — Ben York, 10, son of Lisa and Ben York, of Russia, climbed out of the dentist’s chair, Thursday, and bounded toward his mom.
“I don’t think it’s scary. Some people do think it’s scary, but I don’t because everybody’s nice. It’s really awesome,” he said.
Young Ben had just been examined at no charge during the American Dental Association Foundation’s Give Kids a Smile Day. The national program, celebrating its 15th anniversary this year, is observed annually in Sidney during February, which is Dental Health Month.
Dr. Jeff Van Treese has organized it here since 2008.
“I coordinate with Margie Eilerman at the (Sidney-Shelby County) Health Department. School nurses (who are employed by the health department) screen kids for dental problems,” he said.
Give Kids a Smile targets children from families who don’t have dental insurance and are not receiving Medicare, Medicaid or welfare support. The children who qualify can be examined on Give Kids a Smile Day at the Compassionate Care clinic in Sidney. If problems are discovered, they are sent to a participating dentist, who will do the required procedures at no charge to the children’s families.
According to the ADA’s website, the program was launched nationally by the American Dental Association in 2003. Since then more than 5.5 million underserved children have received free oral health services. These free services have been provided by volunteers including approximately 10,000 dentists annually, along with 30,000 other dental team members.
In Shelby County this year, six dentists are participating: Dr. Matthew Evers, Dr. Chuck Edelen, Dr. Lee Huskey, Dr. Damen Patel, Dr. Chris Ashby and Van Treese. Friday, they examined 30 children.
“It’s usually 40,” Van Treese said. “I like to think dental health is getting better.”
As chairman, he collected results of Friday’s exams. He will assign equal work to each dentist. Then, he will send letters to the children’s families to let them know to which dentist the kids have been assigned. Parents will call the various dental offices to set appointments.
“We try to get the work done within a six-month period,” Van Treese said.
The Yorks participated in 2015 for the first time. Ben had his teeth cleaned and coated with sealants by Evers. His sister, Leanne, 12, got her teeth cleaned and a filling from Van Treese. This year, they were back for another exam.
“We are very grateful for the program,” Lisa said. “A lot of times this is expensive. This kind of ensures that kids will get taken care of.” Like many families, she and her husband, a manager at RC Family Wood Products in Houston, have health insurance but not dental insurance. They are the parents of five children with another on the way.
“It’s a good program. It’s a blessing to us,” Lisa said.
Julie Geise and Erica Lentz, both registered nurses with the health department, said that they send fliers home with school children in second through eighth grades, county-wide. When parents return the fliers, the nurses call the parents to ascertain that no insurance is available. Then the children are scheduled for the Give Kids a Smile day screenings.
“This year, we also posted the flier on Facebook,” Lentz said.
The project, said Geise, “is a great thing. The feedback has always been positive.”
Procedures that can be provided are X-rays, cleanings, fillings, sealants and extractions.
“Sometimes we reach out to orthodontists or a specialist, but (we don’t need to) very often,” Van Treese said. Although the initial screenings are done in the Compassionate Care clinic, the dental work is done by each dentist in his own office.
“It’s easier to work in your own office,” Van Treese said. “I always say its like trying to cook a Thanksgiving dinner in someone else’s kitchen. In your own office, you know where everything is.”
Supplies come from the Ohio Dental Association, which gets a donation from Colgate-Palmolive.
“We appreciate the health department and Compassionate Care. Working together makes this work and it makes Shelby County a great place to live,” Van Treese said.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.