Dr. Craig Yamamoto checked out 4-year-old Melani Henry's teeth yesterday during a screening at Lanakila Elementary School.

Dental Samaritans
visit students

Ten dentists screen 340 Head Start
kids on Oahu

Smiling children eagerly showed off their teeth yesterday after Hawaii Dental Association volunteers visited their Oahu Head Start classes.

The kids, ages 3 to 5, went home with reports on the condition of their teeth and packages with toothbrushes, toothpaste and dental health education.

Ten Hawaii dentists -- Dental Samaritans -- and staff members participated in the American Dental Association's national Give Kids a Smile event. They screened the mouths of 340 Head Start kids with parental permission in 17 classrooms in Honolulu, Waipahu, Ewa and Waianae.

"They really enjoy dentists coming to visit them," said Jennifer Ernst, dental hygienist for the Oahu Head Start Program. She said the good Samaritans do a lot to remove any fear children might have about dentists.

The dental volunteers also went to Boys and Girls Clubs in Honolulu, Ewa and Waianae and took 120 impressions for sports mouth guards for teens and preteens.

The mouth guards are being produced through a Dental Samaritan subsidy to the Academy of Sports Dentistry's local chapter, headed by Dr. Melvin Choy.

Dr. George Wessberg, Honolulu oral and maxillofacial surgeon, and Dr. Russell Masunaga, general dentist in Kalihi, co-founded the Dental Samaritans in 2001.

Wessberg said they felt dentists "should certainly be part of the problem-solving process regarding access to care."

Molimau Heimuli, a 4-year-old preschool student at Lanakila Elementary, demonstrated to Dwaynette Orosco yesterday how she uses an electric toothbrush. Orosco is a general assistant to Dr. Craig Yamamoto, a dentist.

This was the second year of the Give Kids a Smile event, developed as part of National Children's Dental Access Day to reach underserved children across the nation.

"It's really a public-relations campaign to make politicians or insurers aware there's a group of kids that need to be seen who aren't being seen," said Dr. Kim Lawler, Honolulu oral and maxillofacial surgeon and HDA president.

Both in Hawaii and nationally, many low-income children do not meet Medicaid requirements for dental care, he said.

"Maybe parents work for companies without dental plans," he said, speculating about the reason.

"My hat is off to the dentists who are donating time and services and going out and doing it," Lawler said. "I fully support it. But I think they would all agree there's a big unmet need out there. ... Seeing 200 or 300 kids once a year is not taking care of these kids and doesn't address the thousands not seen at all."

Several dentists see kids in their office at no charge, Lawler said. But even those kids have to fall into certain programs, he said. One, endorsed by the ADA, provides for donated services for handicapped and medically compromised children, he said.

HDA members, through the Dental Samaritans, also take dental education to schools and give free emergency dental care at clinics and mobile care facilities on each island, Lawler said.


E-mail to City Desk


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2004 Honolulu Star-Bulletin --