Dentists, Young Kiwanis Reach Out To Help Youth With Dental Problems

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Kiwanis Young Professionals has organized a team of local dentists willing to treat low-income Rim Country youth suffering from dental pain but who lack dental insurance.

Care for the initial 11 children identified would cost about $35,000, said Kristin Wade of High Desert Dentistry.

Wade held a screening clinic in early November during which the first crop of children received X-rays and a basic care plan.

Wade cleaned kids’ teeth and pulled two baby teeth.

Some of the treatment plans are extensive. One child will require multiple root canals, crowns and fillings. Wade doubted he had ever brushed his teeth.

“Most of these kids are in pain,” she said. “They don’t have a lot of other options.”

Nine or 10 dentists around town have volunteered to each complete one or two kids’ treatment plans. As each child’s immediate problems are solved, that creates room for another child to enter the program.

Rather than attempt to provide kids with ongoing dental care, the program aims to get these kids out of pain.

“Unless they have another toothache down the road, we probably wouldn’t see them again,” said Wade.

Kiwanis Young Professionals member Robbi Tantimonaco said the group modeled the program after the nonprofit Give Kids a Smile, which also offers dental care for low-income youth.

However, Tantimonaco said the Kiwanis wanted their program to have more follow through.

School nurses help identify the qualifying students, and the district refers the candidates to the Kiwanis.

The district’s task is to make sure the kids have low enough income levels to qualify. “We don’t need to know that part of it; just that they have been screened,” said Wade.

Although dentists will work largely pro bono, dental work can be expensive. The Kiwanis club is raising money to pay for any necessary specialists, lab work or surgeries.

The group is also offering dentists a $50 reimbursement for supplies.

“That really doesn’t cover many costs at all,” said Wade. “Especially not their time. They really are providing pro bono care.”

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