MINNEAPOLIS, MN) — Minnesota dentists will provide free dental care services for children in need, during the Minnesota Dental Association’s Give Kids a Smile event on February 7 and 8, 2014. This unique, charitable dentistry event will provide care to 6,000 children at over 200 dental clinics throughout the state.

The Minnesota Dental Association is sponsoring the 12th consecutive year of Give Kids a Smile as part of the national Children’s Dental Health Month in February.

“Starting kids off with good oral hygiene at a young age is important for a lifetime of healthy smiles.  Unfortunately, many families face barriers to obtaining dental care. Minnesota dentists want to be part of the solution,” said Minnesota Dental Association President Michael Perpich, whose practice is located in St. Louis Park.

Patients seeking appointments should be 18 years or younger and accompanied by a parent or legal guardian. Advance appointments are required. Parents can find a local participating dentist by calling United Way 211 (just dial 2-1-1) or 1-(800)-543-7709 or visiting www.mndental.org. Information on specific services provided will be outlined when an appointment is scheduled.

Since Give Kids a Smile began, Minnesota dentists have provided free care to nearly 50,000 young children and donated services valued at more than $15 million. Volunteers speaking multiple languages have been engaged to eliminate language barriers. School nurses actively partner to make sure families are aware of the program. The United Way’s 2-1-1 number has become an invaluable link to connect needy families with volunteer dentists.

But challenges remain. Dental disease remains more prevalent today than childhood asthma. Tooth decay is the most chronic childhood disease, affecting 50% of U.S. first graders. Minnesota is ranked 39th nationally in dental fee reimbursements for treating children on government health programs, with dentists only paid 35% of their actual fee for providing the care, compared to 60% nationally.

For more facts on the Minnesota Dental Association’s Give Kids a Smile, go to mndental.org or find us on Facebook.

The Minnesota Dental Association is the voice of dentistry in Minnesota, representing practicing dentists. It is committed to the highest standards of oral health and access to care for all Minnesotans. You can learn more at www.mndental.org.