Meridian Health offering free oral exam for kids

From The Herald Bulletin

Dr. Elizabeth Simpson was inspired to become a dentist while working as a teacher’s assistant in Indianapolis when she saw how many kids had bad teeth. “That pushed me into dentistry,” Simpson said, “always wanting kids to have better teeth.”

Meridian Health Services will be taking part in the American Dental Association’s Give Kids a Smile Day on March 10 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. where they hope to give 300 kids a free dental exam.

“We’re trying to really show people the great disparity there is in access to care and how hundreds of thousands of children aren’t getting dental work done,” said Dr. Elizabeth Simpson.

The event is open to school-age children. Walk-ins are welcome but calling ahead for an appointment is preferred to limit the number of people waiting. Meridian Health is at 1547 Ohio Ave.

The event is especially focused on getting babies and toddlers in for their first visits.

“I’m really passionate about helping parents and toddlers for their first visit,” Simpson said.

The American Dental Association recommends a child’s first dental visit be after the first tooth appears but no later than their first birthday.

“The sooner they bring their kids, the easier it’s going to be,” Simpson said.

“That’s why we want to target people bringing their babies, toddlers for their first visit, so we can check their teeth and do a lot of education for the parents,” she said.

But how are you going to get a look at a baby’s teeth? Simpson uses a knee-to-knee technique where parent and dentist sit knee to knee with the child sitting in their parent’s lap. They will then lean back on the dentist’s lap. That’s easier than getting a baby or toddler in a dental chair.

The exam will include cleaning, polishing and a fluoride treatment with the parent’s permission.

“Get your kiddo in here so we can start talking to the parent and getting your child used to going to the dentist, and having really really easy visits. Instead of the first visit being so scary and upsetting if they need a lot of work done,” Simpson said.

Give Kids a Smile Day started in St. Louis in 2003 and has since become a national event. The ADA said nearly 1,000 programs signed up to participate this year.