Giving back their smiles

Forsyth County Schools, United Way, 6 dentist offices team up to give students something to smile about

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CUMMING, Ga. – Connie Trent, a nurse with the Forsyth County School System, worries that some county students are not eating well — because their teeth hurt.

“If you have a toothache, you’re not going to eat well,” Trent said. “You can’t sleep if your tooth hurts. If anybody ever had a toothache, they know.”

On Friday, Feb. 3, six dentists throughout Forsyth County participated in the National Give a Kid a Smile Day.

The event is put together by the United Way of Forsyth County and the county school district in coordination with the Georgia Dental Association.

This year, there are about 91 children participating to make their toothache go away, get their teeth cleaned and receive other preventative services at no cost to them or their families.

“Some kids [in middle school] I know have never been to a dentist before,” Trent said.

Trent said children from kindergarten through 12th grade that showed a problem were given the opportunity to see a dentist.

Nurses along with dental hygienists were at the schools last year to perform a dental screening. Hearing and eyesight screenings were also done during the initial exam at the school.

They were looking for children with bleeding gums and toothache complaints, Trent said.

All of the children met some financial need as well, said Jennifer Caracciolo, a spokeswoman with Forsyth County Schools.

Cumming Dental Care, Dr. J. Clay Skognes, saw 11 children and has participated for the last three years.

“It’s part of our duty as dentists and we’re glad to do it,” Skognes said.

In December, 43 children in the county school district were taken to Lens Crafters at North Point Mall in Alpharetta and the Avenue Forsyth location for an exam from an eye doctor and given glasses — if they needed.

Advanced Dental Association, 285 Elm Street, has provided the services to county children for 12 years, said Anna Stradley, a patient coordinator for the office.

“Most of them don’t have any means of dental insurance or income, or parents have lost jobs or insurance and/or both,” Stradley said. “We open up our practice for one day and provide cleaning, restoration, X-rays and the necessary fillings that need to be done.”

Also participating this year, were Dentistry for Children, 407 East Maple Street; Forsyth Dental Partners, 312 Tribble Gap Road; Dr. Leslie Hehir, 2860 Freedom Parkway; and O’Rourke Family Dentistry, 757 Peachtree Parkway.

On Friday, six dental hygienists at Advanced Dental worked along with three doctors to see 55 children. Dr. Douglas Hiser, an orthodontist at a private practice in the same building put in braces for some of the children and an oral surgeon performed much-needed dental extraction at no cost.

At the end of their dental exam, the children were sent home with a goody bag containing toothpaste, brushes and other informational items for the parent.

The office last year donated $30,000 worth of dental work to the children. They expected the same or more this year.

“When they leave with a smile on their face, because you made their smile look different and changed, then it’s all worth it,” Stradley said.