‘Give Kids a Smile’ campaign provides free screenings for children


Marina Swanson

This dentist is checking a child’s oral health for free.

The Union City Dental Clinic offered free one-day treatments and screenings for underserved children Saturday as part of the 12th National ‘Give Kids a Smile’ campaign.

The American Dental Association began the Give Kids a Smile program in 2003 as a way for dentists to join with others in the community to provide dental services to underserved children, according to the American Dental Association.

“A screening just gives an overall look of the mouth,” Executive Director of the Southern Alameda Dental Society Melinda Sciandri said. “What we’re doing here today are screenings and treatments. Some kids are having cavities filled, some are having teeth pulled, and some are having crowns put on. If a child today comes to us and they are in immediate need of treatment, we go ahead and just do the treatment.”

The free screenings help low-income families who cannot afford dental insurance or dental treatments by providing them with free dental services.

Patients without standard coverage will pay about $392 for an annual exam including teeth cleaning and x-rays, $207 dollars for a filling and $1,411 for a high noble metal porcelain crown, according to statistics from Blue Shield.

“Most of the patients that come here today are uninsured or underinsured, meaning that they have some type of insurance but it doesn’t cover everything,” Sciandri said. “If they need further treatment after today, we refer them to one of several local low cost clinics in the area who will be able to help them for further treatment.”

The Affordable Care Act, which requires all American citizens to have some type of health insurance, doesn’t cover dental insurance. Pediatric dental plans are often sold separately from medical insurance and people do not receive financial support for buying it.

The Give Kids a Smile Campaign served an estimated 346,947 children last Saturday.
The Give Kids a Smile Campaign served an estimated 346,947 children last Saturday.

“Stand alone dental plans may have maximums of $700 per child to $1,400 for two children,” Catherine Saint Louis wrote in an article on the New York Times. An absence of the requirement for dental insurance, as well as its high cost, leaves millions of children without access to dental care, she said.

“Dentistry in general is overlooked in medical insurance,” Sciandri said. “There’s absolutely a need, and there are thousands of children in [Alameda] county who are in need of services, but can’t access them because they don’t have the insurance.”

Last October, The Pioneer reported that California hopes to offer additional coverage this year for vision and dental plans, according to Alex Briscoe, director of the Alameda County Health Care Services Agency. The program has not yet been created.

Tawekal Bashiru is a mother from San Leandro who can’t afford dental insurance for her children. She came to Union City in order for her kids to receive a free screening.

“I came from the distance because it’s free for the [people who have] low income,” she said. “It’s comprehensive treatments, which is very good for my kids. I won’t ask what they can do for me because I appreciate what they are doing for them.”

In total the Give Kids a Smile Campaign has held 1,530 events so far in February with 9,112 participating dentists and has served an estimated 346,947 children, according to the American Dental Association.