LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb.15, 2019) — Protecting the oral health of children is not only important in the moment, but also carries importance throughout their life. Unfortunately, many families in Central Kentucky face hurdles which prevent children from receiving the treatment they crucially need. To improve access, students, faculty and staff from the University of Kentucky College of Dentistry (UKCD) assemble to provide dental care to underserved children in the Lexington community via the Saturday Morning Clinics (SMC) program.
“If a child does not have good dental health, they are at higher risk of getting early childhood caries, which could lead to inflammation and abscess formation, which could make the child feel very sick," said Sarah Chhadh, a third-year dental student and Saturday Morning Clinic coordinator. "When the caries progress on a young child, we often times have to extract the teeth. This puts the child at risk of malnutrition if they can’t eat foods that are good for them and it also lowers their self-confidence in school if their teeth look different than the other kids in school.”
Over four decades ago, the college's Saturday Morning Clinic program was created by student dentists as an opportunity to advocate for oral health and awareness while giving back to the community. Currently, the program serves children ages four to 12 and operates on a first-come, first-served basis. Services range from risk assessment to prevention: cleanings, fluoride treatments, sealants and restorative procedures are all available.
Although statewide initiatives to improve oral health are important, certain populations remain at greater risk for poor outcomes. These include children from lower socioeconomic groups. Not only do Saturday Morning Clinics provide vital treatment for children, they serve as an opportunity to educate families on how they can do more to protect the oral health of future generations.
Saturday Morning Clinics also give pre-dental students from across the region the opportunity to see clinic operations firsthand. Through volunteering at the clinic, dental students find that the experience greatly amplifies their overall view of dentistry.
“I was first introduced to these Saturday Morning Clinics when I was an undergraduate at UK and even at that age, I was so moved by the selflessness surrounding it; these clinics are actually a very big reason why I chose to attend UK for dental school," said Kassidy Wolfe, a third-year dental student. "Many schools don’t have a program like this, so the fact that faculty, staff and students from our school so willingly give their time every single month for something that is so important to so many families makes me so proud to be a part of this community and the UKCD family. Because of these clinics, kids don’t have to have a major health concern abandoned simply because their parents can’t afford treatment. We are able to give every child the same opportunity at good oral health, which is something that I think is invaluable and something that humbles me at every Saturday Morning Clinic."
The next Saturday Morning Clinic will be held 9 a.m. to noon on Feb. 16 at UK Dentistry's Dental Science Building. For more information, visit https://dentistry.uky.edu/patient-care/dental-student-clinics or call 859-323-DENT (3368) and reference "Saturday Morning Clinics."
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