Since its inception in 2002, the Give Kids A Smile (GKAS) program, launched by the American Dental Association (ADA), has given more than 5 million underserved children free oral health care. Today, Give Kids A Smile (GKAS) is the ADA's premier access-to-care program, with events taking place nationwide in all 50 states the first Friday of every February. What started off as a mere 15 dentist chairs (tailoring 400 children) in a run-down St. Louis clinic, has developed into one of the most consistent grassroots programs to date. Nova Southeastern University’s (NSU) College of Dental Medicine in Fort Lauderdale, FL has hosted the national kickoff, which is expected to include over 1,500 other events across the country. These events range from big schools welcoming in hundreds of children, to individual pro-bono services to a handful of children under the GKAS banner.
Give Kids A Smile's (GKAS) main philosophy is devoting regular treatment for children who do not have the means to dental care, as well as raising awareness on the troubling lack of accessible dental care for the underprivileged. Unfortunately, this problem still persists for many communities.
According to the CDC, 1 in 4 children under the age of five has tooth decay. The percentages for older children and teenagers are even more staggering, revealing 53% for those ages six to eight and 84% for those 17 and older. Tooth decay is not only a serious health concern for growing adolescents, but effects to self-esteem result in over 52 million lost school hours. Dental health care is a major concern for many, especially those who cannot receive it on a regular basis.
Due in part to nearly half a million volunteers, children from all walks of life are able to receive and learn more about oral health care. While volunteers have been able to serve their community and better educate children, the most important factor is lending a hand in the fight against the suffering that many of these kids face. Schools such as the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Dentistry, Harvard School of Dental Medicine, and the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine have all joined in the fun!
Sponsors, who have generously provided many resources and donations over the years, are also responsible for much of GKAS's success. Companies such as Henry Schein, Colgate, and DEXIS have led the charge, and continue to do so. Henry Schein, operating as the chief product sponsor for the program, has donated nearly $1.3 million dollars worth of services for over a decade. Since 2008, Colgate has provided over $700,000 worth of aid, including toothpaste and toothbrushes. Finally, DEXIS has contributed x-ray screenings and staff expertise since GKAS first opened its doors.
The ADA does exceptional work year after year for GKAS, but there's no time to wait in order to join the cause. Now is the time to get involved and give out more smiles! To get started, visit the Program Planning Toolbox and Register for your own event today!
Have you given a child a smile recently? If you were one of the 10,000 dentists or 30,000 dental team members, societies, or volunteers on hand for the annual Give Kids A Smile event, we would love to hear from you! THE NEXTDDS has been covering the cause through our magazine, podcasts, and on social media (Facebook and Twitter) for the past two years. Send us your pictures, stories, and blog posts, and share your experience with THE NEXTDDS!