The Van Wert County Courthouse

Monday, Oct. 22, 2018

Program gives kids free dental services

DAVE MOSIER/independent editor

Nearly 50 youngsters have brighter smiles today following the kick-off of the Give Kids a Smile (GKAS) initiative, which provides free dental services to children in uninsured local families.

American Dental Association President-elect Dr. Joe Crowley watches as a local youngster receives dental services Friday at the Van Wert Smiles dental clinic. Dave Mosier/Van Wert independent

American Dental Association President-elect Dr. Joe Crowley watches as a local youngster receives dental services Friday at the Van Wert Smiles dental clinic. Dave Mosier/Van Wert independent

Also on hand for the event, which was held at the Van Wert Smiles dental clinic, were local dentist Dr. Kevin Laing, current president of the Ohio Dental Association, and American Dental Association President-elect Dr. Joe Crowley, who is also an Ohioan, as well as State Senator Cliff Hite (R-Findlay), State Representative Craig Riedel (R-Defiance), and Van Wert City Council President Pete Weir.

Friday’s event marked the 15th anniversary of the Give Kids a Smile initiative, but the first time the event has been held in Van Wert. Since 2003, more than $12 million in donated dental care and oral health education has been provided by Ohio volunteers for GKAS.

Parents were appreciative Friday that their children were able to obtain free dental care, something that can be expensive for those without dental insurance, or those underinsured.

“This was great because they took out each tooth that hurt them every day and was causing them to be missing class all the time to see the school nurse,” said Cheri Baer of Van Wert, whose two grandsons were seen by volunteer dentists on Friday.

The legislators were impressed with the program, as well as the local dental clinic.

“This is just terrific!” said Riedel. “It’s incredible that people are willing to sacrifice their time and resources to do such a Christian act. It’s just so compassionate.”

“This is the second one of these events that I’ve been to, and I really think they’re great,” Hite added.

Dr. Crowley said the program is the largest children’s oral health charitable program in the country.

“It started small and now it is reaching all borders of the country, and it is an extremely effective way to bring better oral health to more children in America,” he noted.

Dr. Laing said he was pleased that the local clinic was able to provide the kick-off for this year’s statewide program, which includes 96 individual events across Ohio.

“I am really proud to have the statewide Give Kids a Smile kickoff e vent here in Van Wert during my year as the Ohio Dental Association’s president,” he said. “I appreciate all of the volunteers giving of their time and talent to provide valuable dental care to the kids of our community.”

Although Friday’s event was for uninsured children only, Van Wert Smiles dental clinic is open weekly from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday to provide dental services to area residents at or below 400 percent of the federal poverty level. The clinic provides a variety of dental care, including dentures, but doesn’t provide root canals, implants, or bridges.

For adults, the cost is about half what it would be at a private dental practice, while children are seen for a $25 flat fee, which Mickey Rockhill, practice manager at Van Wert Smiles, said was a real bargain for parents. Medicaid patients are also welcome.

“So if (children) have $300 worth of work done on fillings or something, we write everything else off,” Rockhill explained.

Those eligible for dental services can call for an appointment at 419.422.7664.

POSTED: 02/04/17 at 9:15 am. FILED UNDER: News