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Dr. Dickson honored for work coordinating free dental care for needy kids

Did you know that the top reason for school absenteeism is cavities? Unfortunately, though, some children in Plano and elsewhere in North Texas don’t have regular access to a dentist who might treat oral health issues that can interfere with an education. Fortunately, the annual Give Kids a Smile initiative offers disadvantaged children between ages 3 and 13 an opportunity to receive dental care for free. The North Texas Dental Society honored Plano dentist, Dr. Darren Dickson, as its January-February Member of the Month for his efforts to coordinate GKAS.

As part of the GKAS effort, general dentists, hygienists and assistants generously volunteer their time and provide a variety of services, including cleanings, x-rays and exams. The volunteer dentists are also encouraged to have a translator on hand to help them treat children from non-English speaking families.

The numbers of needy children are on the rise, too. Even in relatively wealthy communities, some children may not be able to go to the dentist if a recently laid-off parent has lost insurance or the family has other pressing financial concerns.

GKAS is a collaborative effort between the North Texas Dental Society, North Texas Hispanic Dental Association, dental students and faculty from Baylor University, and students and faculty from the dental hygiene programs at Texas Women’s University and Collin College.

Local school nurses identify students who are eligible for GKAS. These students are known to have dental health problems, but they do not receive regular dental care. They must also demonstrate financial hardship, most often by qualifying for the free or reduced price lunch program in their district.

The care is provided in GKAS volunteer dentists’ offices sometime during the month of February, in conjunction with the national GKAS effort, and necessary follow-up care may take place through April.

Under the guidance of co-chairs Dr. Dickson and Dr. Carlos Nurko, participants in the NTDS’ 2010 GKAS event provided some $65,000 in free dental care for children.

GKAS is a winning effort for all involved. Children get the dental care they need, and dental professionals have the chance to give back to their communities.

If you know of a child who would benefit from the GKAS program, contact the NTDS at 469-855-9965 for more information.

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