FARMINGTON – San Juan College’s Dental Hygiene Program will offer free dental services to children as part of the national Give Kids a Smile Day for the 17th year.
Partnering with the Northwest District Dental Society, the dental hygiene program will host the event Feb. 7, free of charge to economically disadvantaged children, the college said in its news release. Local dentists and the college’s dental hygiene students will be providing dental care, including oral examinations, dental treatment, oral hygiene education, dental X-rays, cleanings and fluoride treatment. Stationed at the college from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., the event is open to children 5 to 12 years old, and children must be accompanied by a parental guardian.
Dr. Julius Manz, director of San Juan College’s Dental Hygiene Program, said the event is the recipient of support throughout the community. The event has the support of local dentists, the public schools, the Farmington Boys and Girls Club and United Way “to make this a true community event,” Manz said.
The college said in the past it has provided more than $50,000 of dental work in a single day.
Since the national Give Kids A Smile program launched in 2003, more than 5.5 million underserved children have received free dental care, according to the American Dental Association, which organizes the volunteer-run event through its foundation.
Access to dental care can be particularly challenging in rural communities. The New Mexico Dental Therapist Coalition found nearly 900,000 people in New Mexico live in areas that are underserved by dentists, primarily in rural, low-income and tribal communities. The lack of services can particularly affect children. About 25% of elementary-aged children in New Mexico have untreated tooth decay, according to a 2018 report by Voices for New Mexico Children.
While there is not currently an event planned in Durango, there are 20,534 dentists throughout the country pledged to participate at more than 1,000 registered events, according to the ADA. The ADA also anticipates it will serve at least 350,492 children in 2020.
Those interested in making an appointment at San Juan College’s event may contact San Juan United Way at (505) 326-4357 and are encouraged to sign up soon. The college says it is expecting more than 50 children to attend this year from throughout Farmington, Aztec, Bloomfield, Shiprock and Kirtland. The college said dentists will not be able to accommodate walk-ins.