Volunteers Give Kids a Smile in Milford

MILFORD — Dentists, hygienists and volunteers gave about 100 kids a smile Saturday at the office of Norman S. Steward, Jr.

The event was hosted through a statewide and national mobile clinic program aimed at helping children access dental care, some for the first time.

This year marked Dr. Douglas Ditty’s second year behind the chair as its chairperson. The event itself, sponsored by the Delaware State Dental Society, has been in Delaware for 13 years.

“I think we accomplished all of our goals: teach prevention, teach them dentistry, find them a dentist home and to provide dental services on that day,” he said.

To make Give Kids a Smile successful, Dr. Ditty and a team of volunteers reached out to federally and state funded clinics, the Boys and Girls Club, school nurses, public health offices, radio stations and the Latino community through Latino liaisons and churches, according to the dentist.

Everyone from doctors to those checking the paperwork were brought on board as volunteers, offering their services from 9 a.m. through 2:30 p.m. free of charge. To mark its importance, newly sworn-in Governor John Carney visited the event at 10 a.m.

Dr. Ditty also had bilingual volunteers available to help navigate potential language barriers throughout the day.

“We wanted to try to make it a pleasant experience for the kids. There’s a lot of fear of dentistry. I think that’s generally unfounded. The kids were happy about it [the event],” Dr. Ditty said.

Volunteers also handed out dental supplies and education to children in attendance.

“We’re trying to make sure these kids receive dental care and continue receiving dental care,” he said. “We see a lot of open chair time as dentists. We just want to get these kids seen.”

Volunteers and doctors helped perform not only screenings, but also extractions and other dental work as many of the children seen did not yet have “dentist homes.”

According to the Delaware Dental Society, 1,917 children have received oral health screenings and comprehensive preventive and restorative treatments totaling $687,447 worth of dentistry to date, not including Saturday’s event.

Give Kids a Smile was launched as a national program in 2003 by the American Dental Association. According to the ADA, about 400,000 children benefit from more than 1,500 events with the help of 40,000 volunteers annually.

“Preventive care is critical to maintaining good dental health and overall well-being, and we will continue to participate in programs to help those who need it,” said Dr. James K. Kramer, president of DSDS. “Our members provide more than 5,000 hours of volunteer services annually. But we can’t do it alone. We need the continued support of our State Legislature and Public Health Department to further educate Delawareans about the importance of oral health.”

Jennifer Antonik can be reached at mc@newszap.com

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