Free Dental Care for Pre-K Kids

WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) -- There may be nothing more heartwarming than a child's smile. Helping kids flash a healthy smile is the goal of a program for pre-school children.
 
4-year-old Rosie Pena didn't need to study for this exam. Several pre-kindergarten students at Wilkes-Barre Family YMCA got their teeth checked Wednesday by Kingston Dentist Gary Hughes. He's a dentist from the 'Volunteers In Medicine Clinic' searching inside the mouths of kids from families who qualify for cost-free dental care. "If you lose baby teeth prematurely, there's going to be issues later on in life and maybe more difficult orthodontics," said Dr. Casale.
 
United Way of Wyoming Valley partners with Volunteers In Medicine to head off more than just potential tooth trouble. "Children can't learn if they have a mouthful of cavities or other issues going on inside their mouth that are preventing them from being able to pay attention," said United Way of Wyoming Valley Vice President of Community Impact Jennifer Deemer.
 
The exam is more than just a checkup. Each child is sent home with a toothbrush and toothpaste and also some fun activities that help drive home the importance of good dental health. Dr. Hughes said, "You want them to develop good hygiene practices early on and continue through life."
 
4-year-old Ryan Laurency already knows the risk of bad dental hygiene. "Or else your teeth will get bad," he said. He also recommends brushing with his favorite flavored toothpaste. "Raspberry," he said.
 
It's an important early lesson in preserving those pearly whites. Now, that's something to smile about. 
The United Way of Wyoming Valley provided a $30,000 grant to fund the pre-k dental program. The goal is to make the free dental checkup available to 2,000 kids a year.
 

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