Kids ages 5-12 eligible for free cleaning Friday

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FARMINGTON — San Juan College and Four Corners dental professionals will present the annual “Give Kids a Smile” event from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday in the college’s Dental Hygiene Clinic.

San Juan College dental hygiene faculty members and students, as well as local dentists, hygienists and assistants, will volunteer to provide free dental care to children from ages 5 to 12, according to a press release from the college.

Two dozen students, five faculty members, 18 local oral health professionals and 18 local dental assistants and hygienists will participate in the free clinic, according to San Juan College dental hygiene program director Julius Manz.

The New Mexico Dental Association's Northwest District Dental Society is co-sponsoring the free clinic, donating both the time of its members and approximately $4,000 in supplies, Manz said.

During the event, college students will educate patients on dental hygiene and oral health before performing a cleaning, including fluoride, Manz said. The student and a local professional dentist will determine if a patient needs an X-ray, and if so, the student will have X-rays taken before the dentist performs an oral exam and any dental treatment.

Manz said local doctors can do restorations, fillings and extractions during the free clinic.

There also will be several specialized oral health professionals at the event who will take on a limited number of patients for root canal or orthodontic work for free, Manz said. Those selected for the longer-term and more-extensive care will be chosen based on need.

Kids from economically disadvantaged homes in Aztec, Bloomfield, Farmington, Kirtland and Shiprock are eligible for the program, according to the press release.

“We’re really trying to catch those kids who fall through the safety nets of Medicare and Medicaid, (who) also don’t have the resources to go and see the dentist if they need to,” Manz said.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Farmington and the Farmington Municipal School District have referred patients to the program, but there is still space and time to schedule appointments. Manz said more than 15 spots were still available on Monday afternoon.

The event cannot accommodate walk-in patients, and children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian, Manz said.

Appointments for Give Kids a Smile can be made through San Juan United Way, and patients do not have to fill out a needs assessment to participate in the program. Manz said the clinic takes patients on a first-come, first-served basis.

This is the 15th year the college’s dental hygiene program has presented the event, according to the press release. Manz said the effect on the Four Corners community is becoming apparent.

“The first few years that we did this, we were flooded. Now it’s becoming a little bit more difficult to find the kids that have the need. ... That's a good thing,” Manz said.

Megan Petersen covers business and education for The Daily Times. Reach her at 505-564-4621 or mpetersen@daily-times.com.

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