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Las Vegas children receive free dental care

A child receives dental care on Saturday, May 21, 2016, at the UNLV School of Dental Medicine. The annual event staffed by volunteers treated about 200-250 patients. [Travis Marhsall | News3LV]

Nearly one in four children who are 2 to 11 years old have untreated cavities in their baby teeth, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

That's why the Southern Nevada Dental Society and volunteers are providing free dental services to hundreds of children in the Las Vegas Valley. The group has been hosting an annual Give Kids A Smile event for 10 years as a way to provide free dental care to children who need it.

Approximately 200 dentists, residents and dental school students, along with other volunteers, donated their time Saturday to treat children at the UNLV School of Dental Medicine.

Chanice Adkins brought her two daughters after learning about the event from their schools.

"We definitely keep up on our hygiene. It's important for us to have a nice, healthy smile," said Adkins. "I'm sure {the event} helps a lot of people today. It's a really good thing."

Her oldest, Javion, 11, is getting three of her cavities filled on this day.

"We're fortunate to have this program. I can't speak for other families but I do know for myself sometimes it is a struggle to be able to pay for dental costs even if you have insurance," she said. "This is very convenient and I'm very grateful."

This once a year event provides relief to families. Out of pocket costs can add up, and many children enrolled in Medicaid receive no dental services throughout the year, says Doctor Michael Sanders. The Chair of the Department of Clinical Sciences at the UNLV School of Dental Medicine adds poor dental health can affect children's' studies.

"The children we see are from Title I schools and are in underserved communities and usually have significant dental needs. Realizing kids miss school for dental problems as the second highest reason for them to miss school," he said. "I have seen kids come in with literally black stumps for teeth and an inability to eat comfortably. They wake up and can't sleep during the night, they're inattentive in school because of their discomfort. The status of the mouth is the key to the kingdom in the generic systemic health for adults and children. The sooner we could get a child into preventative care so they don't get dental disease, their overall health comes much better."

The Southern Nevada Dental Society is the local affiliate of the American Dental Association, which. nationwide serves more than 350,000 kids a year. If you would like to volunteer or need services, contact the Southern Nevada Dental Society here: http://www.sndsonline.org/contact-us/

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