Some local kids received much needed dental care Tuesday at Lansing Community College.
The "Give Kids a Smile" event happens every year, but with dentists fighting a troubling rise in tooth decay among young children, it's becoming even more important.
"You might help the child for the rest of their lives," dentist Willard Hershey said.
Tooth decay in baby teeth increases the risk of adult tooth decay and worse, bacteria in the mouth can spread.
"People used to pass away from a tooth infection years ago before antibiotics," Hershey explained.
Professional dental workers and LCC students worked hand in hand to reach out to 90 children from the Lansing School District. Students were pre-screened and those most in need were selected.
"They tell us how to brush and they clean our teeth," third grader Anjan Rai said, describing the day.
Many of the students had never seen a dentist and half were suffering from decay.
"One gal was so swollen they couldn't even touch that side of her mouth she was so sore," Hershey said.
Dental health among young children has been improving for decades because of advances in flouride and preventative care. But in recent years, Hershey and other dentists have seen those gains level off. Hygenists are now seeing toddlers with six, even ten cavities at a time.
"The diet is changing," Hershey said. "We still have flouride in the water, we have all the good things that help."
The economy is also a factor. Hershey says more parents are unable to pay for dental care.
LCC hopes to help by teaching children prevention, good brushing and eating habits.
Dentists urge all parents to watch what your kids are eating. Sugary juices, soda, candy and processed foods can increase decay.
They also say children will miss out on flouride if you're only drinking bottled water. Finally, don't wait to get a dental exam. Pediatricians recommend a dentists visit by age one.