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Program works to fix dental issues for kids

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Bright Smiles

By Alex Wimsatt

            MOUNT WASHINGTON – A smile costs nothing, but without proper dental hygiene it can cost a lot.

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            Louisville-based community dental partnership Smile Kentucky! understands the importance of having healthy teeth, which is why the organization has committed to providing Bullitt County children with free dental screenings and educational programs.

            Smile Kentucky! recently partnered with Colgate to bring oral health awareness and education to local schools.

Throughout the month, Colgate’s Bright Smiles, Bright Futures mobile dental unit made stops at Lebanon Junction Elementary, Mount Washington Elementary and Old Mill Elementary.

At each school health educators provided students with information on how to brush and floss their teeth properly, the importance of fluoride and how to identify the amount of sugar in snacks.

While students learned about oral health in their classrooms, dentists and hygienists performed free non-invasive dental health screenings from the Bright Smiles, Bright Futures Mobile.

Reports from screenings are distributed to parents who allow their children to participate.

Additionally, Smile Kentucky! identifies children with no dental care coverage. Children without coverage will receive free treatment in February at the University of Louisville School of Dentistry and satellite Smile Kentucky! offices.

Colgate employee and Bullitt County resident Naomi Hodges, who assisted with the screenings, said the biggest benefit of the program is that children who don’t have access to oral health care can receive the attention they need.

“I think it’s awesome,” Hodges said.

Bright Smiles, Bright Futures Heartland Team coordinator Nathaniel Green said another advantage of the program is that it takes the scary out of visiting dentists.

“I think the screenings greatly reduce any fears students may have about dentists,” he said. “It kind of allows them to open up and talk about the health of their teeth.”

Smile Kentucky! has visited Bullitt County elementary schools every year since 2002 and is considered a national model for community partnerships.

More than 110,000 children have taken part in education programs, over 30,000 have received a free dental screening and over 2,600 have received free dental treatment.

Smile Kentucky! will provide free dental screenings to children in 33 elementary schools in Bullitt, Jefferson, Marion, Nelson, Shelby, Spencer and Washington Counties between October 5 and November 11.

            Smile Kentucky! and the Bright Smiles, Bright Futures mobile dental unit will visit Pleasant Grove Elementary School on Friday, Nov. 4.

Dental screenings will occur between 9 and 11:30 a.m. while oral health education programs will take place in the classroom throughout the day.

Students must have their parents’ permission to receive dental screenings.

            For more information about Smile Kentucky! visit smilekentucky.com.