Program is "Giving Kids a Smile"

It's a catch-22. The less often kids go to the dentist, the more likely they are to have cavities, making them less likely to go to the dentist because they're afraid of the treatment.

Dentist Mark Schymik says the treatment makes them uncomfortable. Therefore they don't want to come back, and that creates a cycle that breeds problems.

Their siblings or schoolmates make them anxious about getting shots, but most kids end up surprised at how easy it is.

Dr. Schymik says a lot of kids say "That was the shot? It's over?"

The Indiana Dental Association organizes the annual "Give Kids a Smile" event for kids on Medicaid and those with no access to insurance.

4-year-old Makell is a first-timer there. His mom, Ashley Noeke, says he fell on the monkey bars and he's got a dead tooth now because of it. She doesn't want it to affect his permanent teeth. So she brought him in.

Makell will get it fixed for free. Ashley says that helps mom tremendously!

Advice is free too on how to prevent cavities.

Seven-year-old Dylan Stepro has an excuse for why he doesn't brush very often. He says his brother hogs the toothpaste.

But it's not just the kids that need reminding about good dental health. Parents do too. For instance, many don't know that they shouldn't put their babies to bed with a bottle.

Dr. Schymik says that's a major problem and creates decay.

Without medical intervention, tooth decay only gets worse and ultimately costs more.

The Vanderburgh County Council is working with Saint Mary's and Deaconess hospitals to open a low or no cost dental clinic this year.

Until then, Saint Mary's Mobile Dental Clinic offers free check-ups for kids and the United Way can refer adults to other programs.

St. Mary's Mobile Dental Clinic for children can be reached at 812-485-5843.

Call the United Way at 211 to find out about programs for adults.