• January 13, 2017
UIC College of Dentistry Give Kids A Smile: Helping Chicago's Underserved Children With Access to Dental Care

More than 100 youngsters from St. Malachy School and Chicagoland Easter Seals will be provided with an examination of their teeth, a cleaning, a fluoride treatment, and education on how to keep their teeth healthy, at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry on Thursday, Feb. 2, from 8:30 a.m. to noon at Give Kids a Smile Day. 

Tooth decay (cavities) remains one of the most common chronic conditions of childhood - especially in underserved populations.

Untreated tooth decay can cause pain and infections that may lead to problems with eating, speaking, playing, and learning. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • 1 of 5 (20%) children aged 5 to 11 years have at least one untreated decayed tooth.
  • 1 of 7 (13%) adolescents aged 12 to 19 years have at least one untreated decayed tooth.
  • The percentage of children and adolescents aged 5 to 19 years with untreated tooth decay is twice as high for those from low-income families (25%) compared with children from higher-income households (11%)

Many children enrolled in Medicaid receive no dental services throughout the year.

This is the 15th year the University of Illinois College of Dentistry has hosted the Give Kids A Smile event to improve education and access to dental care for under-served populations in Chicago, and raise awareness of untreated dental disease. 

ADAF-GKAS-15th-Logo.jpgThe ADA Foundation’s Give Kids A Smile program was launched nationally in 2003 as a way for dentists to join with others in the community to provide dental services to underserved children. Each year, about 350,000 to 400,000 children benefit from more than 1,500 events, all because of the efforts of 40,000 or more annual volunteers nationwide. 2017 marks the event's 15th anniversary.

While at the school, the students will be visited by the Tooth Fairy (a UIC College of Dentistry student) and Sparky D. Dragon, the UIC mascot, a red dragon with large, white teeth. The College’s dental students and pediatric dentistry residents are afforded the chance to examine teeth under the supervision of faculty and with the assistance of staff, and the youngsters receive a free cleaning and lots of smiles.

St. Malachy School in Chicago has been working with the College of Dentistry for more than ten years to provide youth oral education and dental care. The school is located at 2252 W. Washington Blvd., serving children in grades PK – 8. Bridgid Miller, Principal of St. Malachy School, noted that because of the school’s long relationship with the College, “we have the children with the healthy smiles. Believe it or not, this is the children’s favorite field trip—they can’t wait to go.”

Chicagoland Easter Seals is located at 1939 @. 13th St. and provides social services for youngsters and adults.

For more information about Give Kids a Smile Day at the UIC College of Dentistry, contact Khatija Noorullah at (312) 355-4549.

The UIC College of Dentistry is located at 801 S. Paulina St., Chicago, IL, 60612.  




Addressing Oral Health Disparities in Chicago

Oral diseases, from tooth decay to gum disease and oral cancer, still cause significant pain and hardship for many adults and children in the US, particularly those lacking access to care and preventive services. oral-health1_0.png

For instance, cavities (tooth decay) are still one of the most common chronic health problems of childhood in the United States. Almost half of children 11 years and under have cavities. In Chicago, 65 percent of third graders have cavities, and more than half go untreated. [ii].



The impacts start at childhood, and last a lifetime.

Untreated cavities can lead to real effects on a child’s health, and for the whole family--from severe pain and health issues to impacts on school attendance and performance, as well as great financial expense. And, the burden is worse for lower-income families because those children do not get timely treatment for cavities. [iii]

Lack of access to oral health care in particular can have serious consequences, including progressive dental disease, costly hospital use, and missed days at school or work. And preventive care is key because people who receive regular preventive dental care and develop good habits as children tend to have better oral health over their lifetime. 


oral-health3.pngAdditionally, poor oral health can have a real impact on a child’s ability to learn. Oral diseases such as cavities can cause decreased appetite, depression, and inability to focus attention – all of which can lead to lower school attendance and learning performance. On average, a child with poor oral health will miss another day of school per year. Children in low-income families with limited access to preventive care will miss 3 times as many school days due to oral health problems. [vii]

And, inadequate preventive care and untreated oral disease have long-standing consequences. Over time, teeth and gums can become seriously diseased and require costly treatment or worse – lead to multiple or complete loss of teeth. Adopting good oral hygiene habits early in life combined with preventive care helps to maintain optimal oral health into old age and ensures you live not only a longer life, but also one free from the physical pain and often emotional suffering caused by oral disease. [viii]


Why preventive oral health care is important

Access to preventive oral health care is particularly important for two reasons.oral-health2.png

  1. First, many oral disease conditions are indeed preventable with early treatment. For instance, dental sealants can prevent 80% of cavities in children.
  2. Second, preventive dental care practices-- including early and routine treatment at the dentist, combined with good home care (brushing and flossing) can save families money in the long-run.  These savings can be greatest for low-income families because they have less disposal income, and more preventable oral disease. Studies have shown that for every dollar spent on preventive dental care - $8 to $50 can be saved in restorative and emergency treatments – and potentially more in additional types of medical treatment. [ix]


Chicagoans living in high economic hardship have 40% more dental related emergency room visits than the city average. 


[source:] Healthy Chicago 2.0: Partnering to Improve Health Equity




What We Are Doing


Affordable Access to Care

University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry is Illinois's largest dental care provider. We have 530+ faculty, students and residents serving over 26 thousand patients annually in our clinics and through community health partnerships.  We provide comprehensive dental care at affordable rates, with strength in preventive care for children and adults, and specialty care for even the most complex needs. Our student dental clinics operate on reduced fees and accept Medicaid, along with several other payment methods. We help remove the barriers that limit access to dental care through affordable care, education and outreach.

Learn more about our Patient care services



We are addressing the need for new generations of dental care providers by training and graduating 225 new dentists each year, most of which go on to practice in the state of IL and Chicago area. Additionally, we educate the public on the importance of good oral health everyday – through the dental care we provide in our clinics – and through our community service-learning which embeds our students in area schools and community health centers as part of their training. We demonstrate practical ways to adopt good oral health habits, and how to avoid risk factors such as high-sugar diets, tobacco, and the connections of oral disease to other conditions such as heart disease and stroke, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes.

Learn more about our Academic Programs



We have 40+ researchers collaborating with clinicians in our own clinics, as well as scientists and practitioners spanning multiple disciplines to generate new scientific knowledge to solve the biggest challenges in oral health across the world. Through basic, translational and community-based discoveries, we want to transform oral health care practice and outcomes for the benefit of our local communities, as well as global society.

Learn more about our Research areas


Community Health

CoopLogo.pngOne way to improve a child’s oral health is to improve the health of the whole family. Through a new outreach program, called CO-OP Chicago, UIC dentists and researchers are working to reduce cavities in Chicago’s low-income and minority infants and toddlers. The program brings together a team of clinical pediatricians and dentists, researchers, health psychologists, and policy experts to rigorously test the ability of an oral health promotion intervention to improve child and family oral health. The program will emphasize family-focused education and support from community health workers in a range of settings (at home and in health centers) to find the best methods of reaching people and changing behaviors. Pediatric dentists in the College of Dentistry are developing a training curriculum for community health workers to educate some 1,500 families in Chicago, and evaluate their overall oral health and the incidence of cavities in the children. CO-OP Chicago is funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health.

Learn more about our Community Health programs




[ii] UIC News: Improving Oral Health of Families and Children in Chicago 
[iii] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC Oral Disease Facts
[iv, vi] Delta Dental: The Role of Dental Benefits in America’s Oral Health
[v] Kaiser Family Foundation: Disparities in Health & Health Care, 5 Key Questions & Answers
[vii] National Maternal and Child Oral Health Resource Center -Oral Health and School Learning 
[viii] Pew Charitable Trusts Dental Health is Worse in Communities of Color
[ix] Cigna: Improved Health and Lower Medical Costs-Why Good Dental Care is Important
[x] Healthy Chicago 2.0: Partnering to Improve Health Equity


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