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UNMC College of Dentistry fights tooth decay one child at a time

12th annual Children's Dental Day to provide care for nearly 200 Nebraska children

Children’s Dental Day at the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Dentistry in Lincoln is one of the most highly anticipated events of the year. Held on the first Friday in February, the event provides access to dental care for nearly 200 needy children from central and eastern Nebraska each year.

This year children from 14 communities across Nebraska will descend upon the college on Feb. 1 where dental faculty, staff and student will be waiting to whisk them through a day of carnival games, cleanings and in some cases extractions, fillings and root canals.

After 12 years, nearly 5,000 children have received more than $2 million in care. This year children from Lincoln, Crete, Columbus, Madison, Norfolk, Stanton, Wayne, West Point, Wisner, Beamer, Lyons, Lexington, Hastings and Grand Island are expected to attend.

And for some of these children it is the first time they have had a chance to be seen by a dentist.

“It’s estimated that about 25 percent of the children in the U.S. experience 80 percent of the decay,” said John Reinhardt, D.D.S., dean of the UNMC College of Dentistry. “Those are the underserved children we are trying to help. Tooth decay can affect a child’s ability to eat, to speak, to adapt socially because of an unattractive appearance, to pay attention in school and their overall quality of life.”

All of the children participating in the event are identified and pre-screened in their communities by volunteers, including school nurses, members of faith-based organizations, Head Start, dentists and dental hygienists.

These volunteers donate their time to identify needy children, provide oral health screenings that indicate the type of care the children will need when they come to the college, and in many cases, come with the children for emotional support and translation services.

While upper level dental and dental hygiene students work in the clinics, many of the first-year students facilitate games with the children, including those that teach good snack choices, how soda pop affects their teeth, what decay looks like and how to brush and floss. Lunch and healthy snacks also are provided and each child receives a goody bag of items, including a toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, activity book and stickers to take home with them.

The dental and dental hygiene students will once again be joined by nursing students from the UNMC College of Nursing Lincoln division, who will provide well child checks, as well as learn how dental health affects a person’s overall health.

"This event not only provides badly needed care for underserved children, but also strengthens the spirit of volunteerism among our students, faculty, and staff," said David Brown, Ph.D., executive associate dean, UNMC College of Dentistry and the coordinator of the event. "We give a lot on Children's Dental Day but I think we receive even more."

Through world-class research and patient care, UNMC generates breakthroughs that make life better for people throughout Nebraska and beyond. Its education programs train more health professionals than any other institution in the state. Learn more at unmc.edu.

Contact

Lisa Spellman
UNMC Public Relations
(402) 559-4353
lspellman@unmc.edu