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'Give a Kid a Smile' program keeps on growing

Northwest Technical College dental assistant student Lisa Bergeson cleans 3-year-old Kody Fischer's teeth Friday during the Give a Kid a Smile program at the college. Kody sits on the lap of his grandmother, Kathy Fischer. The program helped 77 youths receive free dental services. Monte DraperBemidji Pioneer

The first trip to the dentist can be scary. But the "Give a Kid a Smile" program that took place Friday at Northwest Technical College in Bemidji did its part to ease the pain as it provided free dental services to 77 children.

"This is really a triple win," said Dr. John Lueth, a Bemidji dentist and program organizer. "We were having difficulty getting Headstart screening accomplished. And this gives the dental hygienist and dental assistant students at NTC their first experience with pediatric care. Last, it's held in a neutral site, and for a first timer that's more comforting. Transportation can be an issue, but our numbers continually grow."

The Minnesota Dental Association, in collaboration with Beltrami County Health and Family Services and Northwest Technical College, sponsored the program. This was the 10th year for the "Give a Kid a Smile" program in the Bemidji area. Lueth has volunteered his services all 10 years.

Of the 77 children served, 12 were referred to the Northern Dental Access Center in Bemidji and four were referred to pediatric specialists.

Seven area dentists volunteered for the day to offer the free service.

Last year over $41,000 of free dental services were given because of this program.

"Give a Kid a Smile" has really evolved, according to Sherry Schmickle, family health technician with Beltrami County Health and Family Services.

Families can meet with representatives from Bi-CAP energy assistance, Early Headstart, Headstart and Community Resource Connections, who can help fill out paperwork for insurance assistance if needed.