On Feb. 6 Klickitat County children from low-income and uninsured families can receive free dental services in Hood River, including cleanings, fillings, extractions, and fluoride varnish, as part of the national Give Kids a Smile day.

The Columbia Gorge Give Kids a Smile day, sponsored by the Mid-Columbia Dental Society, will take place in two different locations in Hood River.

A Kidz Dental Zone, 419 State Avenue, Suite 4, will provide comprehensive dental services from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. to children ages 0 to 8 years.

La Clinica del Carino, 849 Pacific Avenue, will offer services from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. to youth ages 9 to 16 years.

Children receiving services must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Appointments are not necessary and language interpreters will be available.

"The Give Kids a Smile day is a wonderful opportunity for children of uninsured, low-income families in the county to receive dental education, screening and treatment at no cost. It is well worth the trip across the bridge to Hood River," said Dottie Collins, public health nurse at the Klickitat County Health Department.

Dental caries, which can affect physical and mental health, is the most common preventable chronic disease among children. Untreated dental caries cause children pain and negatively affects their growth, learning capacity, self image, and ability to eat and participate in social activities.

According to the Washington State Department of Health, 27 percent of children who attended Head Start in 2006 had untreated cavities. Among children in 2nd and 3rd grade from all income levels in Klickitat County, 34 percent had untreated tooth decay in 2006, as opposed to 20 percent for the state of Washington.

"Regular dental visits, beginning at six to 12 months of age, will protect a child's smile now and in the future. Dental problems can begin early. A thorough prevention program can avoid those problems," said Collins. "According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, children with healthy teeth chew food easily, learn to speak clearly, and smile with confidence."

The Columbia Gorge Give Kids a Smile day will provide children with needed dental care they have not received through other services. Though Give Kids a Smile day will address dental health issues children of low-income, uninsured families are currently experiencing, it is important that parents and guardians establish regular visits with a dental provider for their children to prevent future health problems.

For information about fluoride varnish services offered through the Klickitat County Health Department call the Goldendale office at 773-4565 or the White Salmon office at 493-1558.

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