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Idaho State University

Open Wide: ISU-Meridian dentists provide free dental care on Give Kids a Smile Day

February, 24, 2014

Most kids don’t mind missing a few hours of school. But for a visit to the dentist?

Sure, says 11-year-old Adam Rivera of Caldwell.

Feb. 18, Rivera spent about an hour at the Delta Dental of Idaho Dental Residency Clinic at Idaho State University-Meridian, 1311 E. Central Drive.

It was Give Kids a Smile Day, sponsored by the American Dental Association, and an opportunity to educate children, parents and grandparents about the importance of good dental health. 

Participating youngsters received free dental examinations, teeth cleanings, X-rays, sealants, fillings, fluoride treatments and preventive care instruction.  

ISU-Meridian dentists, hygienists and assistants dressed in costumes to show a visit to the dentist can be fun.

“To me, the most important thing is that they have a good, positive experience at the dental office and want to come back,” said dental assistant Gina Peel, who was dressed like the tooth fairy with wings and a halo.

Rivera enjoyed his morning.  During his exam, the fifth-grader discussed his favorite Harry Potter books with dentist Katherine Divine, who was wearing bunny ears. The two viewed his X-rays on a computer screen.

“Pretty cool, uh?” said Dr. Divine.

Rivera said the exam didn’t hurt a bit and takes his dental care seriously.  “I brush twice a day.  Getting food stuck in your teeth is gross,” he said.

Dr. Divine said she loves the educational aspect of Give Kids a Smile Day and the opportunity to give back to the community.  She stresses the importance of good home care for children who can’t visit the dentist regularly—that includes brushing and flossing twice a day using fluoride toothpaste and limiting intake of sugary foods, including sports drinks.

The ADA recommends using a “tiny smear” of fluoride toothpaste on baby teeth as soon as they erupt and a “pea-size” amount for children 3 and older. See photos here.

Rivera’s grandmother, Loree Hilton, was thrilled with the services. “This is a godsend,” she said.  “Good dental care is vital to self-esteem and overall health.”

The Meridian clinic provided more than $13,000 in free services and treated 32 children on Give Kids a Smile Day.

Dental disease is second only to the common cold in prevalence among children, according to the ADA. Pain from untreated dental disease makes it difficult for children to eat, sleep and pay attention in school.