For Immediate Release
Date: Feb 20th, 2009
Contact: Dr. John Thompson
At the Heart of any Worthy Project is a Committed Volunteer
Louisville, KY (February 20, 2009) I was able to catch Kelley Dearing Smith on a snowy afternoon as she prepared for her sixth “Smile Kentucky”. Kelley is the point person for the Louisville Water Company, a very significant partner in this event conceived by the Louisville Dental Society, University of Louisville School of Dentistry and the LWC. I asked her to share with our readers exactly what goes into this project and what is the future potential. This is what she shared with KDA Today.
The planning for this event began last April when thirty schools in an eight county area were selected to participate. This selection is done with the help of Family Resource Center Coordinators from each of the school districts. This year the February 6th event is to include schools from Jefferson, Trimble, Henry, Oldham and Spencer counties. The LDS “Smile Kentucky” date is coordinated with the American Dental Association’s national dental project, “Give Kids a Smile”; however, “Smile Kentucky” is unique.
Louisville Dental Society’s first corporate partner was the Louisville Water Company and Kelley has broadened the scope of involvement to include the greater community. Partnership has been expanded to include local Rotary Clubs, Texas Roadhouse Restaurants, Chick-fil-a Restaurants, local dentists and of course the University of Louisville School of Dentistry. ULSD makes a tremendous commitment when it closes down its clinics and makes available its 160 dental chairs, faculty, staff and students for treating kids dental needs. Treatment is provided at many sites that participate in “Give Kids a Smile”, but the fact that the treatment is already planned in “Smile Kentucky” is unique.
KDA member dentists had provided dental screenings for 3600 children with permission slips at the participating schools during October and November of last year. From this screened group, 600 were identified for a treatment invitation. A positive response was received for 359 children to receive free dental care at the “Smile Kentucky” event. Kelley tells me that this is a record number of children to be treated and it will be a challenge. The economy is a significant factor in this year’s demand for care as so many of the participants have been directly affected by layoff or loss of insurance and income. The only qualifier for an invitation for treatment is that the child has a dental need and no insurance, no Medicaid or Kchip coverage available. The really unique gem is the fact that the screening is coordinated with classroom teaching modules provided by the partnership. These children are not just given a toothbrush and toothpaste. They are taught the essentials of basic home care as well as nutrition. The emphasis on food choice and sugar content is included in the materials that are provided the teachers. We are not aware of this being done in any other similar event. These children actually know how to read a food label and determine sugar content and have the ability to at least make a choice. The education kits for the schools include banners, lesson plans, materials, booklets and looks like a standalone education initiative. “Smile Kentucky” has a train the trainer program that includes librarians, teacher’s aides, health department staff, and 4H members. Kelley says that we have to “think outside the box” when we are recruiting and training dental health educators.
Senate Bill 186, our children’s dental examination legislation, was passed last year and goes into effect next year. Kelley and I “brain stormed” ways that this project could dove-tail with the required dental screenings. She told me that the first thing that differs for the better is the fact that the examination is required and the permission slip will not be an obstacle as it is now. She also emphasized the simplicity that has evolved in the screening process. Screenings had been done with portable dental units in the past, but examiners have found these are cumbersome and most opt for a good flashlight or camper’s headlamp and either a school desk chair or “beach recliner” for screening exams for numbers of children. These screenings can be coordinated by local dentists in conjunction with school resources because the teaching modules can be provided by “Smile Kentucky” at no cost to the schools systems if local sponsors are involved. The education modules will be an essential part of screening activity because of the added value that will be provided the schools. This should simplify the logistics for both the school systems that will require the examination for registration and the local dentists that will want to provide examinations for children that do not have other resources such as private care or Medicaid. The information that dental examinations provide can be used to identify children that do in fact fall through the cracks and do not receive dental care. These children could then be offered, with parental permission, dental treatment in a manner similar to the existing “Smile Kentucky” model.
Local dentists or Dental Society’s will have to take the initiative to develop plans that will meet the needs of each local school system but none will have to reinvent the wheel. The education modules of “Smile Kentucky” are available to all. These resources would include: lesson plans, booklets and banners. They have a model for how to make education work in a school which includes recruitment of educators, training, sample newsletters and bulletin boards. “Smile Kentucky” can provide educators to “train the trainer” and help identify groups to look for in terms of education help. The examination kits and examination techniques for schools have already been refined and trainers are available to share expertise. Kelley notes that Kentucky dentists are in a unique position to make a difference for future generations of Kentuckians by providing age appropriate graphic dental education as well as the required dental examination.
School contacts, teachers and principals consistently cite the program’s effectiveness in providing “real world” examples, complimenting the core content of studies and delivering a message in an easy-to-understand manner. “Smile Kentucky” has spent the past six years developing and providing an education plan that works and they have a proven record of recruiting informal educators to deliver the program.
Kelley Dearing-Smith is a valuable resource for KDA Members. She has been “loaned” by Louisville Water Company, but she has taken a very personal interest in these projects. Her work with our own Melissa Nathanson, LDS Members and ULSD volunteers has been a driving force in the national recognition that “Smile Kentucky” has received over the years. She can be reached at email@example.com or 502-569-3600 x2436 and she welcomes your involvement.