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Several thousand low-income New Jersey children who lack a regular source of dental care will receive free oral health services tomorrow through the Give Kids A Smile!® National Dental Access Day.
Oral health education, screening and treatment services will be available at more than 80 sites statewide, including five sites operated by the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, more than 30 community health center sites around the state, and at private dentist offices and hospital dental clinics.
Give Kids A Smile!® is a national initiative of the American Dental Association that marks February as National Children’s Dental Health month. In this state, the New Jersey Dental Association sponsors the day in cooperation with UMDNJ, the New Jersey Dental Hygienists’ Association and the New Jersey Dental Assistants’ Association.
“Oral health and general health are very closely linked. Children need good oral health care so they can stay healthy and enjoy better health as adults,” said Dr. Susan Walsh, Deputy Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services. “Everyone needs good oral care as part of preventive health care.
“UMDNJ, the community health centers, and the dental associations are to be commended for providing this care free to children who need it,” Dr. Walsh added.
According to the U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on Oral Health, research points to possible links between chronic oral infections and diabetes, heart and lung disease, stroke, and low-birth-weight and premature births. Untreated oral problems also cause unnecessary pain and suffering, and cause children to miss school or find it difficult to focus on learning.
Although the nation has seen major improvements in oral health in the last 50 years, disparities persist both nationwide and in New Jersey.
“Federal data show that, in 2002, children from low-income families had more dental caries (cavities), and children in racial and ethnic minority groups had more untreated tooth decay than the rest of the population,” said Colette Lamothe-Galette, acting executive director of the DHSS Office of Minority and Multicultural Health.
“And New Jersey data show that both Black and Hispanic adults are less likely to visit an oral health professional,” she added.
About one-third of the nation’s children do not have dental insurance, according to the American Dental Association. In New Jersey, 52 of the state’s 95 community health center sites offer free or low-cost dental care in addition to their health care services. More health centers will begin offering dental services in 2010. Find a nearby community health center by visiting the health center page on the DHSS web site at: http://www.nj.gov/health/fhs/cphc/index.shtml
DHSS also publishes the New Jersey Dental Clinic directory of affordable dental services at: http://www.nj.gov/health/fhs/primarycare/dentalhealth.shtml
The DHSS has a Children’s Oral Health Education Program that funds dental hygienists who work with teachers and nurses in the schools, conducting dental health education in classrooms, providing teaching materials to the schools, and offering a voluntary fluoride mouth-rinse program for children. The program reached more than 80,000 children in the 2008-2009 school year. Children who need further dental care can be referred to Give Kids A Smile!® or to a low-cost dental clinic.
Each year, about 4,000 New Jersey children receive care through Give Kids A Smile!® UMDNJ expects to treat about 1,000 children tomorrow, and an additional 1,000 are expected to be seen at the state’s community health centers.
Children ages 12 and under can receive free dental care by appointment only. Visit the New Jersey Dental Association web site at http://www.njda.org/GKAS/docs/SiteLocations-2010.pdf view a list of participating sites and to find contact information.
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Participating Community Health Centers:
Jewish Renaissance Medical Center, Perth Amboy
Monmouth Family Health Center, Long Branch
Zufall Health Center, Dover
Community Health Care, Cape May Court House r
Participating UMDNJ Sites:
New Jersey Dental School, Newark
School of Health Related Professions, Scotch Plains
University Dental Center at Galloway
University Dental Center at Somerdale Square, Somerdale
University John H. Cronin Dental Center, Northfield
Department of Health
P. O. Box 360, Trenton, NJ 08625-0360