Links partnership helps community

Published 9:21 pm Saturday, March 17, 2018

An excellent program at Mack Benn Jr. Elementary School this week helped make sure that students there are keeping their mouths happy and healthy.

This was the fourth year the Suffolk Chapter of The Links Inc. had partnered with Suffolk Public Schools to visit a school and provide this service. The Links also partner with Colgate, which provides the specially outfitted van as well as free dental hygiene products for the students who participate, and with other dentists, like Dr. Joe Wilson of All Kids Dental, who participated this year.

Links member Dr. Gloria Johnson-Spruiell is another dentist who participates. The visits to the dentist aboard the Colgate van are low-pressure and have zero scare factor — there are no drills, no scary-looking tools and not much invasiveness. The doctors simply take a look and record their observations for parents to follow up on.

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Regular visits to the dentist are a common happening, if not a favorite one, for many children, but that’s not always the case for children growing up in low-income families.

In 2014, more than 18 million low-income children went without dental care, including routine exams, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In 2012, more than four million children in the United States did not receive needed dental care because their families could not afford it, according to a summary of health statistics for U.S. children.

Even children who are covered by Medicaid may not get the dental care they need. According to another U.S. Department of Health and Human Services study, three in four children with Medicaid across the four states studied did not receive the dental services for which federal law requires coverage. One in four did not visit a dentist during a two-year period.

Meanwhile, tooth decay is the most common chronic disease among U.S. children, according to the National Institutes of Health. And it is largely preventable.

The Suffolk Chapter of the Links Inc. and its partners are doing an incredible public service to our children through this program, and we hope they continue in years to come.