Give Kids a Smile - A dentistry professional performs a dental procedure on a child.

Dentistry students to provide preventive oral treatment

Student-led annual Give Kids a Smile event offers sealants, screenings and education for children, parents
February 14, 2019

The Texas A&M College of Dentistry will hold its annual student-led dental care event, Give Kids a Smile, aimed at providing preventive treatment, oral screenings and education to parents and their children about dental hygiene.

Organized by the College of Dentistry’s chapter of the American Student Dental Association, the event will take place at the Pediatric Dentistry Clinic on the college’s campus in Dallas Saturday, Feb. 16, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“Give Kids a Smile aims to provide free dental care to children coming from underserved communities who don’t otherwise get regular dental treatment,” said Walter Nwaokolo, who is organizing the event. “We also extend this service to include children from all socioeconomic levels who could benefit from free dental treatment.”

Dentistry students will provide preventative treatment, such as tooth sealants and fluoride varnish, for children. The students will also hold “tooth talks,” which teach kids about oral hygiene.

A component of the American Dental Association Foundation, the Give Kids a Smile program is an access-to-care program where dental professionals across the United States provide free oral health services to underserved children. Annual, nationwide events kick off the first Friday in February, but continue throughout the year at various times in various locations.

Confronting the “biggest enemy”

“The biggest enemy of dentistry is, and always will be, tooth decay,” said Nwaokolo, a second-year dental student at the College of Dentistry. “In Dallas, like in many parts of the U.S., tooth decay can be attributed to the diet and can also be oral manifestations of much larger, systemic problems such as uncontrolled diabetes.”

The American Dental Association (ADA) says tooth decay affect 97 percent of the world’s population. Untreated tooth decay can lead to pain and infection, which can contribute to more serious health issues. Health problems from tooth decay include irreversible damage to the gums and teeth, even tooth loss. The pain associated with untreated tooth decay can make even routine activities, such as eating or sleeping, difficult.

Is tooth decay preventable?

Experts say that tooth decay is easily prevented through routine oral care, cutting back on sugary drinks and foods, and visiting the dentist regularly.

Regular brushing of teeth with fluoride toothpaste helps keep teeth and gums healthy. Fluoride, which exists in many municipal water systems, prevents tooth decay by strengthening the enamel.

Frequently consuming sugar contributes to tooth decay. The ADA says this is because cavity-causing bacteria in the mouth feed on sugar left behind by food and drinks. This process produces acids that attack tooth enamel for 20 minutes after eating and drinking. Keeping sugar consumption low can also prevent other health issues, such as diabetes.

Regular visits to the dentist also keeps tooth decay at bay. The dentist can examine your teeth to detect tooth decay early and apply fluoride varnish to protect from further decay.

Dentistry students providing free preventative dental care at events like Give Kids a Smile help reduce the prevalence of tooth decay now and can stop more serious oral problems from forming.

— Leslie Cockrell

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