February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, sponsored by the American Dental Association (ADA), and is an opportunity to raise awareness in communities across the county about the importance of oral hygiene for children. In 2003 the ADA also started the “Give Kids A Smile” program, resulting in more than 5.5 million underserved children throughout the United States receiving free oral health services. Dr. Jamie Sahouria, DDS, of Sahouria Pediatric Dentistry in Rohnert Park, has participated in this worthwhile cause since she opened her practice in 2009.
“This program is designed to help families and children who fall through the cracks or who aren’t able to secure a dental home throughout the rest of the year,” says Dr. Jamie Sahouria. “We’re gearing it towards families who maybe who can’t afford to go to the dentist or who aren’t utilizing their existing dental benefits and children who need that special attention.”
In Sonoma County, the Community Action Partnership based in Santa Rosa coordinates all the patients. Individual families are then assigned to various sites around the county, such as private dental offices that volunteer their time, and to general clinics like St. Joseph Health and the Santa Rosa Junior College dental program. Private dentists such as Dr. Sahouria receive a list of patients and open up their offices on either the first Friday or Saturday of the month of February. The children get exams, cleanings, and any emergency care they can do that day. Children who are cavity-free and just need preventative care like sealants get assigned to come back to a sealant day that is hosted by the Santa Rosa Junior College dental program. This helps the dental students get the experience they need, while ensuring children’s future oral health.
“We volunteer our time and our resources,” says Sahouria. “I’m really proud of how excited my team is to volunteer for this every year because it’s a work day and they’re volunteering their time. More than that we’re trying to do community service for our community. We understand that there are going to be some children that don’t have a dental home and we want to promote awareness of how important it is to see the dentist and ways that we can prevent dental caries. I’ve always felt strongly about this day because it really does help children who don’t get the help any other time. Some years we even see repeat visits from families who really wait for this day – it’s their one shot to see a pediatric dentist.”
In addition to the “Give Kids A Smile” day, Dr. Sahouria and her team visit numerous elementary school classrooms and day cares across Rohnert Park, Cotati and Penngrove during the month of February. The children are taught oral hygiene instruction and are given a free oral kit.
“It’s community outreach and it’s trying to get the word out that pediatric dentistry is important and prevention is important,” says Sahouria.
Her efforts, along with those of others in the county, have made a real difference in improving children’s oral health. Today, fewer children need costly, invasive, and traumatic procedures to fix major dental problems.
“I would say that I’m seeing less and less kids who come in with full mouth decay,” says Sahouria. “That tells me that what we’ve been doing in Sonoma County and in our area for the last ten to fifteen years has really made a difference because people are more aware of taking children to a dentist at a young age.”