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Joyce Endee

Local dentistry gives kids a reason to smile

Young patients Amber and Bryan (front) smile after their dental exams and cleanings with Dr. Melissa Kennell (center) and her staff and volunteers at the Children’s Dentistry of the Lakes Region during last Friday’s annual Give Kids a Smile Day. (Jeff Ferland) (click for larger version)
February 08, 2012
Children's Dentistry of the Lakes Region opened their doors to patients from around the Lakes Region Friday, Feb. 3 to celebrate Give Kids a Smile Day.

Dr. Melissa Kennell, one of seven ambassadors of the American Dental Association Give Kids A Smile Day (GKAS), along with several local dental professionals (including Dr. Alan Kennell, Dr. David Pak, Dr. Kristine Blackwelder, Dr. Derek Blackwelder, Dr. Lisa Singh, Dr. James Manning, Dr. Troy Schrupp and Dr. Darren Boles), offered free exams and cleanings to uninsured and under-insured children.

According to Kennell, she and her volunteers aimed to help those in need around the region while raising dental health awareness as Feb. is dental health month.

Kennell said patients came, literally, by the bus-load.

"It was amazing. Everybody was busy. All the seats were full," said Kennell after one bus-load of students left.

Accoding to Kennell, she enlisted school nurses to help spread the word of the GKAS services, as students sometimes complain to local school nurses of tooth pain.

Kennell said the office accepted children who were eligible for Medicaid, received assistance for school lunches, or were uninsured, but above the poverty line.

The GKAS services for the children did not just stop with the initial exam and cleaning, as Kennell explained that they hoped to find regular dental services for all patients who visited that day. Kennell said she and her volunteers hoped to expand on this in years to come.

For volunteers, Kennell simply asked attendees at a Lakes Region Dental Society meeting.

"I asked 'Who is on board?' and everybody wanted to volunteer," said Kennell.

According to Meredith Kelley, Kennell was always willing to help out children in need. Kelley said that throughout the year, Kennell would work with patients regardless of their insurance or financial status.

"If ever there was someone in need, she would be all over it," said Kelley.

Kennell, who formerly practiced at the community clinic, set out not too long ago to organize an American Dental Association Give Kids A Smile event in St. Louis, and filled out an application and essay to become an ADA ambassador. Kennell said that at the event, dentists treated about 400 children in one day.

Back home, the NH Dental Society asked Kennell to be one of the state coordinators for the GKAS day.

Kennell said this was her first GKAS day at her new location at 369 Hounsell Ave., and she planned to continue hosting the annual event. She hoped to be more organized and better able to "tighten things up" in years to come, and offer more services, such as restorative work.

Children's Dentistry of the Lakes Region, Lakes Region Dental Implants and Oral surgery Center, Winnisquam Dental and the Gilford Police Department sponsored dental supplies, while Delta Dental sponsored volunteer t-shirts for staff.

In raising awareness about dental disease, Kennell said she spoke at schools and on a few radio stations. According to Kennell, cavities are the most prevalent childhood disease followed by childhood obesity.

According to the Center for Disease Control, one in four children aged two to 11 years old have untreated cavities in their baby teeth, and many do not get yearly dental treatment.

Kennell hopes to help decrease these numbers in the Lakes Region, and give dental services to those who normally would go without because of financial reasons.

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