Saving kids’ smiles |

Saving kids’ smiles

Kira Horvath/Vail DailyDr. Ron Zastrow checks on his patient, Brenden Senior, 8, during the American Dental Association's Give Kids a Smile Day on which child without insurance get free dental treatments.

EDWARDS ” Jill Senior said she’d travel a hundred miles for Give Kids a Smile Day.

In fact, she traveled from the next county over to get dental care for her son, Brenden, 8.

Jill Senior and her husband, John, of Summit County came to Zastrow Dentistry in Edwards on Friday to get dental care for Brenden, who has had eight cavities.

Dentists at Zastrow Dentistry and Peak Dentistry donated their services for Give Kids a Smile Day to help Brenden and other kids.

“They are genuinely compassionate,” John Senior said. “This place is awesome.”

John Senior does not have dental insurance through his job, and the Seniors are not alone in their situation. According to a recent survey by Eagle County Health and Human Services, 48 percent of households have trouble accessing dental care.

A state survey taken in 2004 found that nearly one-quarter of third-graders in Eagle County had untreated tooth decay.

Dr. Ron Zastrow, one of the dentists donating his services, said he treated a 5-year-old with a deep cavity on Friday morning. It wasn’t painful for the child ” yet.

“It would have become painful,” he said. “So difficult to endure, he probably wouldn’t be in school.”

Zastrow said he’s aware that dental coverage can be hard to come by for many residents.

“We’re trying to fill that void,” he said. “We are just trying to do a small part.”

Dental care often gets prioritized behind other necessities such as food, rent, heat and medical care. “There are so many other things they are trying to provide for their kids, it’s way down on the list,” Zastrow said.

Few local dentists accept Medicaid or Child Health Plan Plus because reimbursements are low. And a van, called the Kids in Need of Dentistry Miles for Smiles van, that came to the county in previous years stopped coming to Eagle County this year.

Last year, local nonprofits, dental offices, government agencies and the school district formed a coalition called Eagle County Smiles to try to improve dental care.

One of the goals of the coalition is to build a dental clinic in Eagle County that would cater to children in need. And next year, mobile dental care will return, courtesy of the University of Colorado.

Dental problems affect a child’s education, nutrition and self-esteem, said Karen Simon of the Vail Valley Charitable Fund, part of Eagle County Smiles.

“Smiles full of rotten teeth affect children in ways we can’t even measure,” she said.

In addition, oral diseases can be an entryway for infections that can harm other parts of the body, Simon said.

Efforts like Give Kids a Smile Day are popular, and the day filled up with patients in a matter of a day or two, she said.

That shows the “crisis” of need for dental services in the community, she said.

“It barely scrapes the surface, but it’s an incredible opportunity for the ones in most dire need,” she said.

Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or

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