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It's all about a smile

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Smile Kentucky! addresses serious issues concerning children's oral health

By Elizabeth Crigler

Smile Kentucky! addresses what the U.S. Surgeon General calls the most common chronic childhood disease in this country, tooth decay.

The program, created in 2002, is a community partnership to improve the oral health of children. Since its beginning, Smile Kentucky! has provided dental education programs to 75,000 children, dental screening to over 21,000, and free treatment to over 1,300 children. The program works with elementary schools in Louisville Metro, Bullitt County, Spencer, Henry, Nelson, and Oldham.

Smile Kentucky! includes three components: education, dental screening, and treatment. During the dental education, health educators or dental hygienist demonstrate how to brush and floss, when to see a dentist, and recognizing the amount of sugar in snacks. Every child receives a Colgate toothbrush and toothpaste, Pure Tap water bottle, and take-home materials. Teachers receive a dental curriculum that is aligned to core content. School libraries receive dental health books.

Dental Screening is where dentists and hygienists visit each school and provide free screening to children in grades 3-6. The treatment component of Smile Kentucky! provides free treatment to children identified to be at greatest risk of dental disease. The treatment takes place at the University of Louisville School of Dentistry and private offices on the first Friday in February. For many children, it is their first trip to the dentist. For others, it is an opportunity to go home with a new smile and no more toothaches.

The impact of Smile Kentucky! is truly a community partnership!! Over 500 volunteers and dental professionals make the program possible.

Local companies and organizations cover the cost. Smile Kentucky! is nationally recognized as a model for community service. The program compliments a national effort by the American Dental Association.

Four elementary schools will participate with Smile Kentucky this year in Bullitt County. The 12 elementary schools rotate participation so that each school receives the dental screenings every third year. October 15th the Smile Kentucky! Team will be at Lebanon Junction Elementary, at Pleasant Grove Elementary on October 16th, at Mt. Washington Elementary, October 17th and at Old Mill Elementary October 29th. Treatment Day will be held February 1, 2009 at U of L School of Dentistry.

We are always looking for help; please call Bullitt County Health Education Office at 502-955-5355 for more information.