Archive for Wednesday, February 26, 2003

Dental office helps area children

February 26, 2003

A McLouth dentist wants to make it easier to treat kids for free.

At least on one day a year.

Dr. Paul Heath and his staff set aside Friday to participate in the American Dental Association's first "Give Kids a Smile" campaign. Organized statewide by the Kansas Dental Association, the goal is for dentists and their staff to fix children's teeth for free on one day each year. To participate, the children must be from low-income families and not have access to dental insurance. Participating dentists and employees volunteer their time and services.

Friday morning while reclining in the dental chair, 8-year-old Steven Peters grinned at Heath, who had just checked Steven's X-rays and was preparing to fill a couple of teeth.

"He just has a few little cavities," Heath said, patting Steven on the shoulder. "I think we'll get him all fixed up today."

Steven's father, Wesley Peters, sat in the reception room while Heath worked on his son. A temporarily unemployed single parent, Peters said the dental office had contacted him about the program, knowing he had no dental coverage and his son needed to have dental work done. Peters, who described his son as a boy who "always has a beautiful smile," said the "Give Kids a Smile" campaign is a good idea.

"I think it's terrific because he needed to be seen and have work done, and because of this he was able to get him in and get some of the work done now," Peters said.

As he spoke, other children played nearby, waiting for a ride to take them back to school. Steven Peters and seven other children had their dental needs taken care of Friday morning.

"We did a little bit of everything," Heath said. "Mainly cleaning and exams, we also did extractions and fluoride treatments."

The condition of the children's teeth varied. Some, Heath noted, said they had never been to a dentist.

"A couple of them were a little bit worse than what we usually see, but then some of them were in pretty good shape, too," Heath said.

By mid-morning, Heath, and his staff, who usually take Fridays off, were ready to go home. But that's not what they wanted to do, said Heath's receptionist, Mary Holliday.

"A lot of kids suffer with pain because there are no family resources," Holliday said. "We'll do this again next year, but next year we'll be full. We blocked out from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., but we'll probably only be here two hours today. It's a shame because there are a lot of kids in need out there."

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