HAZARD — UK Healthcare hosted its seventh annual “Give Kids a Smile” at the Hazard Walmart on Monday, giving many children — and their parents — a reason to smile with free dental examinations and cleanings.
Dr. Nikki Stone, one of the head dentists at the event, said around 40 kids had come out to have their teeth cleaned so far at the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile.
“We’re probably going to stay until 4 p.m. Sometimes we close up early, but this year we’ve had a really good crowd,” she said.
Stone said the event was started in 2005 by the American Dental Association (ADA) and is a nationwide event.
“The first year we did this there were only two locations in the state. Now, there are 11, so it’s growing,” Stone said.
Kentucky was recently ranked number two in the nation for rates of childhood tooth decay, something that Stone said she hopes will not be true in years to come thanks to programs like “Give Kids a Smile” and other free dental care programs offered to children through programs like Head Start.
“We’ve been doing that program for the past seven years, and in that time the percentage of kids in this area who have painful decay has dropped around 20 percent, and that’s great,” she said.
Stone also said she had not seen many kids who were afraid of the dentist or of being examined, attributing this to the change in environment.
“They get examined out here, so it’s different. It’s not a dentist office, so they’re more comfortable, I think. And they see Ronald McDonald and they know he’s nice,” she said. “Plus there’s little toys they can take home with them after they’re done, and they love that.”
The event was only for one day, however, Stone said children with no insurance are followed up on by the staff to ensure they receive the care they need.
“We make sure we do what we can for them. It’s about the health of their teeth, you know, that’s the main thing,” she said.