by Elizabeth T. Orr, DDS
Nearly one in four children aged two to 11 years old has untreated cavities in their baby teeth, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Oral health is integral to overall health and statistics like these are cause for concern regarding our community’s health.
When left untreated, dental disease is not only painful, but can have lasting effects on a child’s physical, emotional and social development. Children suffering from dental issues not only can’t eat or sleep properly; they have difficulty focusing in school, emotional issues may arise,
all of which is an impediment to the maintenance of a normal healthy childhood for our community’s youth.
Widespread and effective prevention of oral disease is essential to improving the oral health and quality of life of Collier County’s children and reducing the levels of unmet dental need.
Healthcare Network of Southwest Florida has been striving to provide quality care accessible to all, regardless of ability to pay since 1977; a
mission that has only been strengthened in the changing healthcare landscape. In order to ensure that children not only have access to but also receive dental care, Healthcare Network of Southwest Florida has strengthened existing partnerships and is embarking on a variety of new ones like Give Kids a Smile®.
Healthcare Network of Southwest Florida, in celebration of the American Dental Association’s Give Kids a Smile® event, brought together volunteer dentists and dental hygienists to provide free exams, cleanings and fluoride treatments and distribute free educational materials, toothbrushes, and toothpaste on Saturday, February 28th, 2015. Healthcare Network’s Dental Care East is located at 1749 Heritage Trail #801 Naples, FL 34112 and is one of three different dental care centers run by the organization. Providing access to free dental services for underprivileged children on a day when dental offices are typically closed shows a significant step towards combating two of the most preeminent barriers to care, both logistical and economic.
While this was the initial GKAS event hosted in Collier County, providing free and readily accessible dental care to local children in need is not a new concept for Healthcare Network. “Considering the direct link between oral health and total health, barriers to access should be of major concern to our community. Healthcare Network is determined to improve the statistics through events like Give Kids a Smile®” stated Dr. Elizabeth Orr, Healthcare Network’s Vice President of Dental Services. “Our goal through GKAS is dental care accessibility as well as the opportunity to educate parents and children on incorporating oral hygiene habits into their daily lives to help minimize dental decay and improve oral health.”
Dental disease is preventable and it starts with access and education. If we can provide improved accessibility to dental care and educate parents and caregivers on the benefits of oral hygiene, we are setting the stage to help wipe out dental disease in this country. Ultimately, the money spent on the prevention of dental disease saves a lot more money down the road in dental treatment. In addition, the prevention-focused community outreach effort to reduce the incidence of dental disease in Collier County’s children and its consequent social impact will positively affect our community at large. Events like Give Kids a Smile® raise awareness regarding the epidemic of untreated dental disease occurring and Healthcare Network hopes that this will result in increased local public and private partnerships to improve access to oral health care.
More information about Healthcare Network of Southwest Florida, its 14 office locations and services, and its many community partnerships like Give Kids a Smile® may be found at www.healthcareswfl.org.