By Alicia Doyle

The Writer
Specializing in Good News
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JOE LUMAYA/Ventura County Star

Volunteers make a difference in Simi kids' dental health


March 7, 2015

Ventura County Star

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. - Despite their double income with full-time jobs and insurance, Pablo and Jordana Grado were grateful to receive free dental services for their three young daughters during the Free Clinic of Simi Valley’s Make a Difference Day on Saturday.

“For us, it’s extremely meaningful and helpful, knowing we are a big family,” said Jordana Grado, of Simi Valley, whose 4-year-old twins and 5-year-old daughter underwent checkups by volunteers from the Ventura County Dental Hygienists’ Association.

“Sometimes even our insurances may not cover dental, so this gives us an opportunity to keep their teeth healthy,” she said. “It also helps us in a way that it takes a big load off us financially. We tried with insurance, but it’s never enough because the cost is always higher than the coverage. So this makes us very grateful.”

The Grados’ children were among an estimated 90 youngsters who participated in the annual charitable event sponsored by the clinic and the association.

The cause involved more than 45 dentists, dental hygienists and dental assistants who donated time to provide exams, cleanings, fluoride treatments and sealants.

“We are seeing patients who are really, really falling off the edge,” said Barbara Pampalone, of Chatsworth, a semiretired dentist who has volunteered during Make a Difference Day for the past several years.

“This place is serving the most needy of all in our communities,” she said. “I come here because I know that I made a difference and I know what they’re doing here is going to make a difference.”

Cavities and other dental health issues not only affect children’s ability to speak and maintain a healthy self-image, but also can contribute to later systemic health problems, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, according to Olga Lafflitto, the clinic’s dental administrator.

“What we’re offering is important because nobody else has this program and it’s a very good thing for the underserved in the community,” Lafflitto said. “The families are very grateful; many are overwhelmed, and they don’t know this program is available to them.”

In addition to receiving dental services, the children learned how to brush properly using an oversized model of a set of teeth and a giant toothbrush. They also received a bag with toothpaste, a toothbrush and educational material.

“If you get the children early enough, you can make a huge difference in their dental care throughout their lives,” said Fred Bauermeister, executive director of the Free Clinic of Simi Valley. “We’re also making it a fun event, so they’re not so fearful of going to the dentist. Hopefully, it will transition through their whole lives.”

Live entertainment was offered on the front lawn of the clinic by Craig Newton, of Simi Valley, who played classic rock music as well as children’s songs for the volunteers and guests.

“I want to keep people entertained while they’re waiting,” Newton said. “I also hope to draw a little attention to this event and provide moral support for the people who are working.”

Karen Michinock, a dental hygienist who volunteered Saturday, noted that February was children’s dental health month and that tooth decay is one of the main reasons children miss school.

“That’s why I’ve volunteered for several years,” said Michinock, of Simi Valley. “As a member of the Ventura County Dental Hygienists’ Association, this is our job. This is what we do — help give back to the community.”

 






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