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Minnesota Dentists to Offer Free Services Friday and Saturday

February 2, 2012

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Thousands of children will be in dentist chairs Friday and Saturday as part of the Minnesota Dental Association's 10th annual "Give Kids a Smile" program.

The services are free to help those children who normally don't have access to dental care, says pediatric dentist Teresa Fong.

"Either because their parents can't afford dental insurance, maybe it could be that a parent doesn't even know that their child has a cavity or their parent isn't aware that it's important to go to the dentist, so we know there are some barriers for access to care for many children."

A child who's dealing with a toothache or other dental issues often sees those problems creep into other areas of their lives, Fong says.

"It's harder for them to eat. It's harder for them to sleep. Many times they miss school. We don't want to see that happening, so that really motivates us to get out there to really do all that we can to prevent these kinds of things from happening and to really prevent dental decay."

While children aren't always excited about going to a dentist, Fong says, their parents know how important it is.

"Parents really appreciate the fact that they can find a dentist who will see their child and help to get their child out of pain, so we see so many thankful, thankful people, so many thankful parents, on these two days."

The program has grown each year, Fong says, and some 44,000 children have been helped since it began. This year, about 200 dental offices throughout Minnesota are taking part.

While the services are free, appointments must be made.

For more information, including locations of participating dentists, call 211 or visit mndental.org.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN