OGDEN, Utah – Weber State University’s Dental Hygiene Clinic and local dental professionals are working together to fight dental disease in children from low-income families, a problem the U.S. Surgeon General calls a “silent epidemic.” Free dental services will be provided to children in need on Feb. 26, and that’s reason to smile.
WSU began hosting a free dental clinic for children seven years ago. In 2006, the university program teamed up with the Utah Give Kids a Smile charity organization to be part of the statewide event. Similar clinics are being held in Midvale, Orem, St. George and Taylorsville.
The WSU Dental Hygiene Clinic, located on the Ogden campus, is expecting 75 children for the event, which is held in conjunction with the American Dental Association’s Give Kids a Smile Day during February’s National Children’s Dental Health Month. The children are students at local Title I schools (schools with large populations of children from low-income families). They have been preregistered for the event and scheduled for an appointment.
During the event, WSU dental hygiene students will provide cleanings and fluoride treatments. Volunteer dental professionals from the Weber District Dental Society will provide dental services such as fillings, extractions and root canals. If the children need follow-up care, they will be given vouchers that can be used at participating dental private practices. Each child also will receive education about proper dental hygiene, as well as a kit with a toothbrush, toothpaste and dental floss.
“Good dental hygiene is extremely important,” said Shelly Costley, assistant professor of dental hygiene and this year’s coordinator for WSU’s Give Kids a Smile event. “Dental disease can cause pain and affect the child’s ability to function at home and at school. Early childhood cavities can cause children to be uncomfortable with their smiles and lead to poor social abilities. If left untreated dental disease, which is an infection, can cause death.
“Dental hygienists are prevention specialists. Our goals are to educate the public concerning the importance of good oral health and to work with other dental professionals to bring that goal to fruition.”
Stephanie Bossenberger, professor and chair of WSU’s Department of Dental Hygiene, said the Give Kids a Smile event is a beginning point for many children in need. “When we meet the children and find out what they need dentally and for health care in general, it puts them on a springboard to total health,” she said.
Five years ago, for example, a teenage girl came to WSU’s Give Kids a Smile event in pain. She had severely decayed permanent molars and was in need of four root canals and four crowns. She received the care she needed and was able to continue in school pain-free.
“The cost of root canals and restorations for four molars would have cost more than $2,000 per tooth,” Bossenberger said. “The parents were panicked, and the girl was scared. She received the treatment she needed at the clinic and follow-up care from a local dentist. Give Kids a Smile really made a difference for this family.”
Costley said the event is also a great opportunity for WSU dental hygiene students in that it provides practical learning experiences and fosters volunteerism.
“It gives them a sense of community,” she said. “When they experience that as students, they are more likely to volunteer throughout their careers. I’ve had students say they had no idea that children in our community had this kind of dental need. They really do come to care for the children they help treat.”
Last year, more than $38,000 in dental services was provided to children at the WSU event. Statewide, that number totaled more than $296,000.
The Utah Give Kids a Smile event is funded by individual and corporate sponsors, including Henry Schein Dental and the Utah Dental Association. At WSU, a gift from Dr. and Mrs. Paul Favero will fund the event. In addition, the Utah Medical Association Foundation provides grant money to purchase supplies and equipment to help with children’s programs.
Visit weber.edu/wsutoday for more news about Weber State University.
Shelly Costley, assistant professor dental hygiene and Give Kids a Smile event coordinator
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Stephanie Bossenberger, professor of dental hygiene and department chair
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- Amy Hendricks, office of Media Relations
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