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Dentists bring smiles to kids’ faces

Mr. Smiles Tooth Fairy entertachildren waiting for free dental services as part American Dental Association's Give Kid Smile Day HealthLinc

Mr. Smiles and the Tooth Fairy entertain children waiting for free dental services as part of the American Dental Association's Give a Kid a Smile Day at the HealthLinc clinic in Valparaiso Monday Feb. 18, 2013. The pair are actually HealthLinc employees Seth Belden and Pam Tollard. | Andy Lavalley~Sun-Times Media

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For more on services offered by HealthLinc Community Health Center, go to www.hilltopchc.org, or call 462-7173.

Updated: April 4, 2013 6:23AM



Patricia Kireta drove from her home in Griffith to HealthLinc Community Health Center so her daughter, Karah, 11, could get a free dental checkup on Presidents Day at the clinic.

Though her husband is working, the family does not have insurance, and the clinic offered free checkups for children up to age 18 whose families are uninsured. The clinic’s Feb. 18 participation was part of the American Dental Association’s “Give Kids A Smile Day.”

“We’re uninsured, so we thought we’d take the opportunity. Even though the drive is 45 minutes, it’s something affordable. Going to a dentist nowadays is so expensive,” Kireta said, adding Karah last saw a dentist about a year ago.

Dentist Isaac Zeckel said Karah’s teeth looked good, though Kireta might want to look into braces for her daughter.

Karah was one of 62 patients booked into the clinic for a free checkup. Site manager Karen Bonner said the clinic holds the free checkups on Presidents Day because kids don’t have school, which makes getting appointments easier on patients. This was the fourth year the clinic participated in the event.

According to the dental association website, www.ada.org, 1,768 clinics participated in “Give Kids A Smile Day” through Feb. 19. An estimated 403,090 kids received checkups by that date, and 10,085 dentists participated.

The clinic also offers dental services to patients with insurance, Bonner said, and folks without insurance usually receive services on a sliding scale, based on their income. Kireta said her family might start coming to the clinic for dental services, despite the drive.

A woman dressed like the Tooth Fairy graced the lobby where kids waited for their appointments, and each of the kids received a goody bag with toothbrush and other dental care items.

“A lot of the kids we’re seeing today don’t have access to care,” Zeckel said, “so it’s been quite some time since they’ve had (dental) care.”

People don’t know they have a dental problem until they get a toothache, he said, so during “Give Kids A Smile Day,” Zeckel and the rest of the clinic’s dental staff focused on emerging needs. They also talked about healthy eating habits, including staying away from pop, which causes tooth decay very quickly.



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