Benedum Foundation Grants $100,000 to WVU School of Dentistry “Smiles” Initiative

Underserved West Virginia children are all smiles thanks to a $100,000 grant from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation to the West Virginia University School of Dentistry.

The funding, which will be distributed to the dental school over a two-year period, supports West Virginia’s program of Smiles Across America (SAA). 

"The Benedum Foundation’s generous grant allows us to invest resources that will improve children’s oral health," said SAA: West Virginia Coordinator Richard Meckstroth, D.D.S., who is also chair of the Dental Practice and Rural Health department in the School of Dentistry.  "The money allows us to extend our program to more West Virginia children and expand the overall preventative dental care offerings to West Virginia’s underserved children."

SAA provides dental sealants to uninsured and underinsured children.  Sealants make the biting surface of the teeth less susceptible to decay and disease. 

SAA: West Virginia makes use of the WVU School of Dentistry’s Rural Health Program, where students participating in their rural rotations provide clinical service and treatment to children and educate parents on the importance of preventive dental services. 

“Many parents don’t see a need for preventive dental visits because those options weren’t readily available to them when they were children,” Meckstroth said.  “The problem compounds itself and parents often wait until their children exhibit problems such as toothaches before they bring them to the dentist’s office.”

"This grant is part of Benedum's initiative to improve oral health in West Virginia by calling attention to the issues, shifting focus to prevention and children, and improving access to care," Beverly Railey Robinson, Benedum Foundation vice president, said.  "WVU and the School of Dentistry are stepping forward to help."

SAA: West Virginia began in fall 2006.  Oral Health America coordinates the national SAA campaign.  Other SAA: West Virginia supporters include Ronald McDonald Children’s Charities and Delta Dental. 

According to Meckstroth, regular brushing and flossing, as well as preventive dental visits are the best ways to ensure children have good oral health.

For more information about the WVU School of Dentistry and Smiles Across America: West Virginia, call (304) 293-5912.

- WVU -

For more information:
Cassie Waugh, HSC News Service, (304) 293-7087
cw: 01-22-08

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