Dentists ensure young smiles

More than 25 area dentists are providing free oral health care for children in need this month.

Health officials anticipate that more than 300 children will receive free restorative and preventative dental health services in February as part of the national initiative “Give Kids A Smile.”

The free cleanings, sealants and dental exams started in Catawba County in 1994, said Cindy Walker Sigmon, public health dental hygienist for the N.C. Oral Health Section that serves Catawba County.

The dental services became a state initiative in 1998, and the national “Give Kids A Smile” program launched in 2002.

Last year, more than 44,800 dental team members nationwide participated in “Give Kids A Smile.”

The program also brings dental education to about 6,000 students in Catawba County’s three school systems. As the county’s dental hygienist, Sigmon traveled to schools throughout the county to give educational talks and pre-screenings.

“I serve all these kids before they come,” she said. “Most of the children are those who have not been to the dentist and don’t have a dental home.”

The ADA recommends that every child see a dentist no later than his or her first birthday. Dental disease among kids from underserved families is epidemic, as about 80 percent of children’s tooth decay is found in 25 percent of children, according to information provided by Catawba County Public Health.

Health officials have seen a decrease in the dental needs of children over the years. Sigmon said an increase in education and school-based nurses has led to less children with dental disease.

Dentists participate in the program from their own offices. The services they provide are free and voluntary.

Participating dentists include Dr. Tom Carnaggio, Dr. George Clay, Dr. Ashley Collins, Dr. Michael Cordora, Dr. Lena Eldridge, Dr. David Gaddis, Dr. Bryan Graham, Dr. Coke Gunter, Dr. Delores Hammer, Dr. Darryl Hatchett, Dr. Mark Helton, Dr. Kristin Herring, Dr. Gary Jones, Dr. Kimberly Jones, Dr. Ron Key, Dr. William Litaker, Dr. Patrick Maddy, Dr. Joshua Millsaps, Dr. John McAllister, Dr. Ross Penland, Dr. Cliff Pernell, Dr. Jason Sain, Dr. Jerry Sowers Jr. and Dr. Richard Troutman.

“This event, which requires months in planning, has been enthusiastically embraced by our local dental community and school systems,” Sigmon said. “I anticipate that $100,000 in free dental care will be awarded this year to children from Catawba County through this ‘Give Kids A Smile program.’”

For more information on “Give Kids a Smile,” contact Cindy W Sigmon at 828-695-5868 or Dr. Kristin Herring at 828-267-6858 or visit or