Dental education program works to ‘give kids a smile’


Student Allison Perez, daughter of Ernestina Ruiz, helps Dr. McClinton demonstrate proper brushing technique.

Head Start students learned about the value of having healthy teeth as well as ways to care for their teeth Friday with a visit from Dr. Kelton McClinton and staff.

The visit was part of the annual “Give Kids a Smile” program sponsored by the American Dental Association and in conjunction with Children’s Dental Health Month.

McClinton told children about the importance of fighting “cavity bugs” if they want to keep their smile and, more important, be able to eat properly. Using a model, he demonstrated the proper ways to brush the outside, inside and tops and bottoms of teeth, but said they can’t get rid of all the cavity bugs themselves and need to have a dentist clean their teeth periodically. “It’s important to brush every morning but its even more important to brush before going to bed,” he said.

This is the 12th year for the Give Kids a Smile program, which provides free oral health services to children and adolescents from underserved families throughout this year. Each year, approximately 450,000 children benefit from more than 1,500 events and the staff Friday left dental care kits for the students.

According to the ADA, “Give Kids A Smile” has become the world’s largest oral health charitable program and an ADA access-to-care endeavor designed to encourage parents, health professionals and policymakers to address the year-round need for oral health care for all children.

“With the recent implementation of the Affordable Care Act, healthcare is on everyone’s mind. There is more to be done to help alleviate the silent epidemic of tooth decay,” said ADA President Charles H. Norman, D.D.S.

The ADA’s Health Policy Resources Center estimates that about 8.7 million children are expected to gain some form of dental benefit from the Affordable Care Act, which will reduce by approximately 55 percent the number of children without dental benefits.

How to Care For Your Child’s Teeth

A child’s primary teeth, sometimes called “baby teeth,” are as important as the permanent adult teeth.

  • Primary teeth typically begin to appear when a baby is between age six months and one year.
  • Primary teeth help children chew and speak.
  • Primary teeth hold space in the jaws for permanent teeth that are developing under the gums.

The ADA recommends that a dentist examine a child within six months of the eruption of the first tooth and no later than the first birthday.

  • A dental visit at an early age is a “well baby checkup” for the teeth.
  • Besides checking for tooth decay and other problems, the dentist can demonstrate how to clean the child’s teeth properly and how to evaluate any adverse habits such as thumbsucking.

Learn more about caring for your children’s teeth at the ADA’s new website- Watch videos, search topics and explore Life Stages (including babies, kids and teens) to find tips and information to make you and your family Mouth Healthy for Life. View dental symptoms, find nutrition tips and search by topic. You can also find ADA Seal Product information to find products that have been scientifically tested to be safe and effective.



Class members hold up a sign about the “Give Kids a Smile” program before Dr. McClinton’s presentation.