Area dentist hopes to #039;Give Kids a Smile#039; on Friday

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 3, 2005

For Dr. Hal Jeter, DDS, a smile is more than an expression of happiness - it is a gleaming white gateway to better health.

That is why the South Point dentist and president of the Southern Ohio Dental Society (SODS) is teaming up with 30 other members in the area to "Give Kids a Smile Day" at Shawnee State University campus on Friday.

An estimated 100 pre-registered children from low-income families will receive free dental services by dentists practicing in Lawrence, Scioto, Pike and Adams counties as part of the Ohio Dental Association's statewide efforts.

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Those services will include examinations, dental cleanings, fluoride treatments and referrals to local dentists as needed for further treatment.

Why is this event so important to area children?

"They don't smile (because they) have open decay showing when they're smiling and (we cannot) have it affect their self-confidence in that way," Dr. Jeter said. "Kids need to be able to grow up as healthy as possible. We want to try to make that possible."

Due to the need for signed permission and other documentation, the event cannot accommodate children who have not been registered in advance.

The GKAS day is an annual program that was started by the American Dental Association in 2002. Friday's local event is being held in association with Shawnee State University Department of Dental Hygiene.

Why is this event so important to Dr. Jeter and his fellow dentists?

"We know that for children, there's a large Medicaid population in this area and in this state," he said. "Only about one-third to one-fourth of the children who are eligible for Medicaid have ever seen a dentist. So, it's important for that reason to make them and their parents aware of the access.

"The second reason it's important, in that population if they have dental needs, then we want to get (children) in and take care of those needs so they're not trying to go to school, not trying to eat because their teeth hurt," he said.

Although Dr. Jeter treats both adults and youngsters in his South Point practice, his main emphasis is on the latter.

"When parents bring their children in, we always try to establish a relationship with them," he said. "Kids are the most unique individuals and trying to pull them up to an adult level usually doesn't work. But when you get into their world, you can make a real difference in their health."

Dr. Jeter tries to make that difference by making the dental experience something fun instead of something to fear.

"What we do is we get them in and they're always playing around and we make a game of being cleaning their teeth and riding in the chair. We try to make them comfortable as possible," he said.

He began practicing that special brand of family-friendly dentistry nine years ago after making a bit of a career detour. Dr. Jeter had worked as a chemist at Ashland Oil for five years.

"That was a wonderful job, but I always knew there was something else I was supposed to do," he said.