By Dennis Douda, WCCO-TV

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Good news for parents struggling to get their kids to the dentist in this tough economy.

The Minnesota Dental Association is offering two days of free care to thousands of children, through a program called Give Kids a Smile.

Early Childhood educator Jamey Iovino often refers families in her Building Bridges program at Somerset Elementary in Mendota Heights to the free service. She said her young students are usually sparkling with enthusiasm. Which is why it was obvious when little Lizeth Gutierez seemed painfully distracted.

“When you can’t eat and you’re losing weight and you need to get dental care fast, it’s really invaluable to have this resource,” Iovino said.

Give Kids a Smile combines 3,000 volunteers, including about 500 dentists, with thousands of children in need.  Woodbury dentist Dr. Kyle Edlund  is one of the volunteers.

“Because of language or economic reasons or (because) their parents don’t know much about dentistry… they have not had a chance to get into the dental office,” Edlund said.

The families helped by program really cover the spectrum, from those living in poverty, to those hit by layoffs or financial hardship.

“I think for a lot of families when you have to choose between, rent or food or fixing your child’s tooth … the difference (made by a program like this) is huge,” said Iovino.

Lizeth’s mother Laura Lopez-Guteierrez, a Mexican immigrant, said her daughter is all smiles these days, with dreams of college and a focus on enjoying school again.

“I don’t know how to thank you for the help for my  daughter,” she said. “I appreciate all the help.”

Dr. Edlund said the help is as easy to get as making an appointment.

“We’re providing care for any children 1 to 18 years of age. They just need a parent or a legal guardian,” he said. “There’s no questions asked.”

To make an appointment for a child Feb. 4 or 5,  call United Way at 211, or click this link.

Comments (3)
  1. Shari says:

    God Bless all of you who donate your time and resources to this program. I hope that so many blessings are returned to you!! You are truly making a tremendous difference!!

  2. Laki says:

    This is great. My kids havnt been in 3yrs.. No insurance. /this will be my little pick me up for the month. My kids’ health be looked after.

    I appreciate the providers that are donating their time and supplies.

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