On Tuesday, February 28, UIC College of Dentistry celebrated Give Kids a Smile Day. Schoolchildren from St. Malachy School came to the UIC dental clinic for cleanings, and dental college faculty and Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle spoke at a press conference on the importance of oral health.
CDS President Dr. John Gerding also spoke at the press conference. Below are his remarks:
It's a pleasure to be here this morning, together with all of you in support of a common cause: making sure all children in Illinois have access to dental care.
Things are tough in our state right now. In the last few years, dental clinics have closed all over the metro Chicago area for lack of funding.
Those at UIC know firsthand how closing of dental clinics have affected patients and the colleges own ability to provide care to the community.
The system we have right now is stretched past capacity, and now Springfield is weighing cuts to Medicaid, and we dont know yet how deeply those will go.
Its definitely a lot to make anyone committed to oral health nervous.
We all know that oral health is vital to overall health--that you cant be healthy without a healthy mouth--but the perception too often is that access to dental care is a secondary consideration.
Just this month, we had a state senator call it inessential. Try telling that to someone suffering from an infection so severe they cant go to work. Or what about child who is in so much pain they cant pay attention in school?
But there are bright spots, and I must pause here and acknowledge the leadership shown by Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle, who has taken a stand for oral health. She understands the importance of a dental care safety net and has pledged $1 million to improve access to dental care in Cook County. Thank you, President Preckwinkle.
And I also want to say Chicago Dental Society, an association for thousands of dentists in the metro area, is your partner in access to dental care.
Our Government Affairs Committee has been working with elected officials to see that funds are committed to oral health programs and are used wisely, to the benefit of the greatest number of patients.
We also have our CDS Foundation, which just last week announced plans to reopen a dental clinic in DuPage that closed last year for funding issues.
And with our foundation, over the last 10 years we have made more than 80 grants to support dental education and access to care, totaling almost $5 million.
We stand here with you. Thank you for your dedication, support and hard work to improving oral health for all in Illinois.