By Conrad Dudderar
Senior Staff Writer
Nearly 1,200 students across Yukon and Piedmont learned “from the pros” about proper dental hygiene this week during the 45th annual Dental Health Day.
About 40 Yukon-area dental professionals visited first grade and special education classrooms on Tuesday, Feb. 5 for the local observance of National Children’s Dental Health Month.
These school visits were highlighted by free oral exams and instruction on proper dental hygiene.
“We’ve seen over 30,000 children in Yukon and Piedmont over the years through this program,” said Yukon dentist Dr. David Deason, who has coordinated the effort since its inception.
“We started in 1974 with five dentists when Yukon’s population was 5,000. We probably saw between 60 and 80 third graders that first year. What a change! We have 25 participating dentists today helping out, plus their assistants.”
National Children’s Dental Health Month, sponsored by the American Dental Association, is a month-long observance that brings together thousands of dedicated professionals, healthcare providers and educators to promote the benefits of good oral health to children, their caregivers and teachers.
In 2018, an estimated 1,157 students were seen on Dental Health Day and 30 Yukon children were helped by local dentists through the “Give Kids a Smile” program. An estimated $28,491 in dental and orthodontic work was donated to Yukon students.
Yukon-area dentists, orthodontists, oral surgeons, dental hygienists, and dental assistants met Feb. 5 for the annual Dental Health Day luncheon inside Yukon Public Schools’ administration office, 600 Maple.
Afterward, these dedicated professional dispersed to 14 school sites to share their dental health message with 1,184 students in the classroom.
Students visited included 827 from YPS, 357 from Piedmont Public Schools, 41 from Southwest Covenant Elementary School, and 17 from St. John Catholic School.
‘GIVE KIDS A SMILE’
Yukon-area dental professionals are again providing free dental care for eligible children during February as part of the Give Kids a Smile program. Appointments have been scheduled through YPS’ Helping Hands’ office.
Many participating local dentists offer free care throughout February to children of eligible families who cannot afford these services otherwise.
The Give Kids a Smile program started 16 years ago in Yukon through the efforts of Deason and then-Helping Hands’ director Christine Sorrels.
“We have students whose parents don’t have insurance, they don’t qualify for SoonerCare and they just don’t receive any dental care,” Deason said. “We have dentists who are willing to volunteer their time and effort to help these needy kids.”
Over the past 16 years, an estimated $500,000 in free dental work has been performed through Give Kids a Smile in Yukon.
During Tuesday’s Dental Health Day luncheon, Deason asked dentists who hadn’t already to sign up for the Give Kids a Smile program.
“I encourage you to become part of it, because it’s really rewarding,” Deason said.
YPS volunteer programs coordinator Dianna Mann said Give Kids a Smile is such a vital cause for many Yukon students and their parents.
“We’re so grateful for your time today,” Mann told the dental professionals who participated in school visits.
Meanwhile, Mayor Mike McEachern has signed a proclamation declaring February as “Children’s Dental Health Month” in Yukon. The proclamation was read at Tuesday night’s city council meeting.
Deason, who accepted the proclamation, told the audience this annual program “is about the kids” and “I plan to continue for a while.”
The services that participating dentists provide during Children’s Dental Health Month is “one of the many things that make Yukon great,” McEachern said.
The 2019 Children’s Dental Health Month campaign slogan promoting oral health is: “Brush and Clean In Between to Build a Healthy Smile.”
Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease in children despite it being almost entirely preventable. Good oral hygiene practices like brushing with fluoride toothpaste can help children avoid cavities.