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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Sioux Empire Smiles gave free dental care to around 150 kids today. The care started with a check up, x-rays, then onto fillings and fixes. Program Director Damon Thielen says dental care is very important in these kid’s lives.

“Dental care itself is the most common chronic disease in children, it affects daily life for a number of kids.” Thielen continued, “Something like two million school days in this country are missed every year for kids that are in pain or need dental appointments during school, so there is a significant dental need.”

Where there is a need, there’s United Way. The non-profit sponsors the event emphasizing the importance of dental care nationwide, and even more so, here in South Dakota.

“56% of South Dakota kids have cavities, 20% of those cavities are untreated. So we know there is a significant oral health disparity in the country and specifically in the area in Sioux Falls. So as kids need access to care we can help provide that service,” Thielen said.

More than 35 volunteers helped at the event today, from dental professionals to bilingual translators. Thielen says the day is a learning experience for everyone.

“An educational experience I think for everybody involved, and I think it’s seen in a positive light of course,” he said. “It’s people volunteering their time and effort to try and help children which is a valuable thing.”

The kid’s in attendance didn’t have a normal day at the dentist, the event tries to make this trip to the dentist a little more special.

Thielen said, “There’s Disney Princesses walking around today so some of the kids get to see some Disney Princesses as well. So you try to make this, what is generally viewed as a difficult or kind of painful experience in going to the dentist, you try to make it fun an enjoyable and try to smile on the way out the door.”

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