Despite pandemic, dental care for children must continue

GKAS events adjust programs to balance safety, need to provide oral health to kids     

Organizers of the Give Kids A Smile event in St. Louis had long been looking forward to 2021 — the birthplace of GKAS was set to celebrate the program’s 20th anniversary — when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

It quickly became clear that the 2021 event was not going to be the same, said GKAS St. Louis cofounder Jeff Dalin, D.D.S.

In previous years, the event provided full-service dentistry to about 350-500 kids at the Saint Louis University Center for Advanced Dental Education. Crowding hundreds of children in one location was no longer possible.
   
However, one other thing was even clearer: canceling was not an option.

“Because of the pandemic, we saw that the demand was greater than ever,” Dr. Dalin said. “We had to come up with a way to continue GKAS and do it safely.”

The St. Louis event is among programs around the country that are adapting and modifying their GKAS event. The goal is simple: continue to provide dental literacy programs and dental services in the safest possible way amid the pandemic.
   
How to do that is a little more complicated and requires creativity.

Despite challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly 40,000 GKAS volunteers plan to deliver much needed oral health care and education to approximately 300,000 underserved children in the U.S. throughout 2021. With the support of the GKAS national sponsors, Colgate and Henry Schein, as well as other partner companies, the ADA’s GKAS program will provide treatment and education kits for local volunteers to use at their events. In addition, the ADA remains committed to providing resources to local GKAS program coordinators and volunteers who are considering or planning a GKAS event.

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