Kaiser Permanente Northwest provided more than $80,000 in free dental care and vaccinations to approximately 200 uninsured and underinsured children at seven locations in Oregon and Southwest Washington on Feb. 7. More than one-quarter of those children received both dental and medical care.
The free clinics, called Give Kids a Smile, were offered in conjunction with National Children’s Dental Health Month and in partnership with the American Dental Association. These events also were timed to Oregon’s immunizations exclusion date; children in Oregon who aren’t current on their vaccinations can’t attend classes after Feb. 18. Kaiser Permanente is committed to keeping kids healthy at school and ready to learn.
Care was provided on a first-come, first-served basis. In addition to the preventive fluoride varnishes and dental sealants advertised, volunteer Kaiser Permanente providers were able to perform fillings, extractions and a root canal.
Among those who benefited from the free clinics was 7-year-old August Ebalaroza, who had been complaining of dental pain. She had a decayed baby tooth removed, a cavity on another tooth filled and received a flu shot.
“It’s pretty amazing. We are moving soon and need to save all of our money for that, so the fact that we can get free services means the world to us. I want to thank everyone involved with this event,” said August’s mother, Jamie Read.
The events were just as meaningful for those who put them on.
Linh Vo-Cheng, DMD, pediatric dentist at the Kaiser Permanente Cascade Park Dental Office and Give Kids a Smile volunteer, saw children under age 3. In addition to applying fluoride varnishes to help prevent cavities, she focused on parent education — offering mom and dad tips on how to brush and floss their children’s teeth, advice on fluoride and information on other resources available in the community.
“I think that’s a crucial part of being in the profession that we’re in: giving parents the building blocks they need to be able to care for their children’s teeth at home. It’s great to be able to show them and not just tell them what to do,” said Dr. Vo-Cheng. “It’s nice to be able to have these opportunities that fulfill you emotionally and personally.”
Learn more about this event and other community resources at kaiserpermanentedentalnw.org/community.