Something to smile about

Smile-A-Bration free dental care program a boost for kids

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Ten-year-old Errol Ormesher has been dealing with a pesky, painful tooth.

Aside from quick fixes, his mother, Ann Ormesher, wasn't sure what to do. The family has no dental insurance and can't afford an expensive dental visit, she said.

That typically expensive visit was free Saturday at AvantGarde Dental, one of two Steamboat Springs dental offices that participated in Smile-A-Bration. The program, sponsored by Delta Dental benefits carrier, provides free dental care to uninsured children throughout the state.

"This was a godsend for us," said Ann Ormesher, who is the sole breadwinner in her family while her husband recovers from an injury.

Errol and his two sisters were among 47 children who had their teeth examined, cleaned, sealed, crowned, X-rayed or extracted at the office.

Dr. Jeff Piaskowy, his two hygienists and two dental assistants took on the hefty patient load Saturday as a way of giving back to the community.

"I love doing this," said Piaskowy, whose office participated in the program for a second year.

In Steamboat Springs, Delta Dental booked appointments for Smile-A-Bration in three days. AvantGarde Dental had to turn away about 20 patients, Piaskowy said.

"Judging by the calls ... there must be a very high demand from uninsured children in Northwest Colorado," he said.

The need for affordable dental care in the region is driven in part by its isolation from Front Range dental schools and nonprofit clinics that provide services on a sliding scale, said Dr. Neil Ganz of Rabbit Ears Dental, which also participated in Smile-A-Bration.

"There's a lot of families struggling because of the high cost of living," said Ganz, who saw 29 children Saturday with the help of two dental assistants, one hygienist and two interns from the University of Colorado Dental School.

Piaskowy and Ganz said they treated children who had never been to a dentist.

The program was a "big time" help to Becky Vasquez, whose son, Christopher, had several baby teeth pulled at Rabbit Ears Dental.

"Dental insurance is very high, and it doesn't pay very much," she said. "This really helps out."

Piaskowy said dental benefits in the past 30 years have hardly changed to accommodate rising costs of care. One dental visit or crown procedure alone can use up the average annual dental insurance benefit of about $1,000, he said.

Delta Dental, a nonprofit benefits carrier, reimburses dentists for the care they provide children through the Smile-A-Bration program. Reimbursement covers a fraction of the dental offices' costs, and some offices, such as AvantGarde Dental, donate the funds back to the program.

Another Satuday event dedicated to the health and safety of children was the free fingerprinting and identification program hosted by the Elk Mountain Masonic Lodge and law enforcement agencies.

Despite sloppy weather, more than 150 children showed up by midday for free identification cards that included a picture and digital thumbprint, Mason David Moran said.

Parents keep the ID cards, which provide police detailed information to put out in an Amber Alert if the child is abducted.

Also as part of that event, the Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue department conducted inspections of child safety seats to make sure they met current standards and were properly installed.

-- To reach Tamera Manzanares call 871-4204 or e-mail tmanzanares@steamboatpilot.com

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