On March 30, the University of Michigan School of Dentistry will provide free dental care to children aged 4 to 18. The annual event, Give Kids a Smile Day, seeks to help communities that may have trouble accessing dental care, such as those in low-income communities, those without health insurance and those with accessibility issues. The event will take place at the University’s Dentistry School on North University Avenue and aims to serve 80 families.

Dental student Mary Claire Kiernan said the event is part of the American Dental Association Foundation’s “Give Kids a Smile” initiative. Forty people attended the event last year and just over 60 children are currently registered for this year’s event.

Kiernan said dental decay is widespread among children, worsened by obstacles to dental care access.

“Today, dental decay is the most common childhood disease in the US,” Kiernan wrote in an email interview with The Daily. “To further complicate this, there are many barriers to access to oral health care. Give Kids a Smile Day serves to provide our community with the services they need as well as offer education and preventative care in order to promote lifelong oral health.”

According to the Michigan State Oral Health Plan, Michigan has a percentage of children with excellent or very good health higher than the national average (76 percent compared to 71 percent). Still, the National Survey of Children’s Health said 12 percent of young children and 11 percent of adolescents did not go to the dentist’s office for a preventative visit during the past year. Additionally, Count Your Smiles, a basic screening survey, said that 55.9 percent of Michigan third graders experienced tooth decay in 2010.

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