Waianae, Hawaii—More than 100 children from Waianae Coast communities received free dental care along with a big dose of fun at Dental Home Day held at Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center (WCCHC) on May 23. For participating children, the event was the first visit in a full year of free dental care at WCCHC thanks in part to a grant by Healthy Smiles, Healthy Children: The Foundation of the Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and the support of Sunstar Americas.

Dental Home Day is a service event held in conjunction with the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry’s Annual Session, held this year on Oahu. Pediatric dentists from across the U.S. come together to help underserved children and give back to the host city during this day of service in a year of care.

This isn’t a one-time shot of goodwill from the pediatric dentists. Healthy Smiles works to ensure that every child, regardless of ability to pay, has a Dental Home—a place to receive consistent, compassionate dental care. Healthy Smiles does this by providing grants to local community healthcare organizations that offer pediatric dental services. On Oahu, Healthy Smiles has granted a total of $65,000 over the past 24 months to three community health centers: Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center (Access to Care Grant), Kokua Kalihi Valley Comprehensive Family Services (first ever President’s Grant), and Kalihi-Palama Health Center (Access to Care Grant provided 2016-2017).

“As individuals and as an organization, pediatric dentists embrace the opportunity to help children live better lives by addressing their oral health needs. We are honored to help these local healthcare organizations that are dedicated to providing underserved children with healthy smiles,” says Neophytos L. Savide, DDS, Healthy Smiles, Healthy Children president.

“We are grateful to Healthy Smiles, Healthy Children for their grant to support our pediatric dental program.  Dental Home Day has been a fun way to celebrate this generous gift while also giving visiting dentists a chance to share with children and their family members how important early and consistent dental care is to their overall health,” says Dan Fujii, DDS, WCCHC dental director.

Hawaii’s Pediatric Oral Healthcare Challenge

Dental cavities are the number one chronic infectious disease among U.S. children, while many children do not have access to dental care. Hawaii is not immune from this oral healthcare challenge. In fact, Hawaii’s children have the highest prevalence of tooth decay in the U.S.; 52% higher than the national average, according to Hawaii Smiles, a report from the Hawaii State Department of Health (2014-2015). The study found that 22 percent of children had untreated tooth decay and seven percent had untreated tooth decay, demonstrating that many do not have the dental care they need.

Tooth decay in children can trigger a domino effect of pain, malnutrition and quality of life issues. The good news is that it’s nearly 100 percent preventable when a child has access to a Dental Home. The goal of HSHC is to provide Dental Homes to one million children by the year 2021.

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