Recently, the Help a Child Smile program visited the Dawson County School System, helping to bring free dental care to almost 100 children in the district.
In a presentation to the Dawson County Board of Education during the board’s May 3 meeting, Executive Director of Instructional Support and Student Services Janice Darnell explained that there are several reasons children may participate in the Help a Child Smile program, including a lack of transportation to get to a dentist, the parent not having time off work to take the child to an appointment, or a family not being able to find a dentist that takes Medicaid.
Because of all these reasons and more, Help a Child Smile is a statewide program established in 1994 and aimed at providing free dental care to children in school who are in need of it. Through the program, volunteer dentists travel to hundreds of schools across the state in a bus designed to be a mobile dentist’s office, providing dental care from basic cleanings and exams to fillings and minor extractions.
“They’re able to provide pretty much any minor dental service that our students might need,” Darnell said.
The dental care provided is at no cost to the school system or to the parents, and all that the parents have to do is sign their child up for the program and give their consent for their child to be examined.
According to Darnell, past semesters have each seen around 100 children come to receive the free dental care, and this semester was no different.
“We were able to serve 90 students in the fall and 94 students in the spring, so that’s a pretty good turnout,” Darnell said. “We hope that as word continues to spread and as we continue to promote this program that we’ll be able to have more students participate.”
Following Darnell’s presentation to the board, Superintendent Damon Gibbs commended those who helped bring the program to the county, saying what a great program Help a Child Smile is.
“We talk all the time about kids not being able to learn because they’re hungry, but they sure can’t learn if they have a toothache,” Gibbs said. “This is a great program for our kids, and I really believe it’s gonna grow year after year.”