Volunteer dentists help 100 children kick off their year of free dental care

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry awarded a $25,000 grant to St. Bernard Hospital to fund the care.

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Malani Stallworth, 2, of South Shore

Malani Stallworth, 2, of South Shore, receives free dental care at St. Bernard Hospital’s Dental Center in the Englewood neighborhood, on Wednesday.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Alexander Saucedo doesn’t have dental insurance for his 4-year-old daughter, Alexandra, so every visit to the dentist must be paid for out of pocket.

That will change, at least for awhile, thanks to a $25,000 grant to St. Bernard Hospital, which will use the money to provide a year of free dental care to 100 children, including Alexandra.

“I think it’s great that she’ll have free dental care for a year. For other families, it’ll give them access to a facility in their neighborhood,” Saucedo said.

To kick off that year of free treatment, Saucedo and his daughter joined other parents and children for their first check-ups Wednesday at the hospital, 326 W 64th St.

Chicago-based American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry awarded the grant to the hospital to fund the care.

A report by the academy found that about half of U.S. children ages six to 11 are affected by tooth decay, said academy president Joe Castellano.

For Wednesday’s event, the academy rounded up volunteer dentists from around the country who were in Chicago for its convention. Besides the check-ups, the dentists also were there to teach parents proper at-home care and schedule follow-up appointments.

“Many times clinics will offer free services one time but this isn’t a one-time thing. We’re about creating a dental home so that the kids have a place to go back to all the time,” Castellano said. “Part of today is also about educating the parents so that they know what to look for at home.”

Many of the children had never had a dental check-up.

It was the first dental visit — in this country, at least — for Dora Adeboye a 7-year-old from Schaumburg who attended the event with her two younger sisters.

“This is my second time at the dentist. My first time was in Nigeria,” Dora said.

“But I think the dentist is awesome.”

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