Help A Child Smile was started by high school student Siya, also the co-founder of The Neelok Foundation. The death of her grandmother from oral cancer and The US Senate Committee Report in 2012 describing "The Dental Crisis in America", spurred her to take action to bring down the high incidence of oral cancer and pediatric dental disease and raise awareness about the importance of early detection and treatment. The goal of Help a Child Smile is to bridge oral healthcare inequalities that lead to higher disease rates in low-income, rural, and underserved areas.
Through oral health seminars for children, distribution of educational brochures and dental hygiene kits, and an expanding group of volunteers and dental professionals who provide free care, Help A Child Smile has created a network across Georgia, is working to reach underserved communities in other states in the US, and has traveled to India.
Early Detection of Oral Cancer Saves Lives
Oral cancer is among the most common cancers of the world and in Asian-Pacific countries, the incidence is within the top 3 of all cancers.
Over 52,000 people in the US are diagnosed annually. It causes over 9,750 deaths, killing roughly 1 person per hour, 24 hours per day. Of the 53,000 cases, only slightly more than half will be alive in 5 years. Worldwide the problem is greater, with over 530,000 new cases detected annually and the incidence increasing.
Oral cancer is particularly dangerous because in its early stages it is painless and goes unnoticed. Its mortality rate is higher due to lack of awareness of risk factors, preventative screenings, and the cancer being routinely discovered late in its development
The US Surgeon General describes dental disease as "a silent epidemic"
Pediatric dental disease is the most common childhood illness in the world, affecting 1 in 5 children. Over 47 million people in the US live in places where it is difficult to access dental care and 17 million children received no care at all.
There were over 830,000 visits to emergency rooms across the country for preventable dental conditions, with over 51 million lost school hours and 164 million work hours.
World-wide, the statistics are much grimmer. Oral diseases affect half of the world’s population (3.58 billion people) and 30% of people over 65 have no remaining teeth.
The oral health care demands are beyond the capacities of the health care systems in most low and middle-income countries. In the US, nearly 9,500 new dental providers are needed to meet the country’s current oral health needs.
The disparity between the rich and the poor is growing in dental disease - low-income children suffer disproportionately and have 4 to 5 times higher incidence of problems.
Oral cancer ranks among the top ten cancers worldwide and the top two in Asia. Dental disease is the most common chronic disease in the world. It affects half the world's population, almost 3.5 billion people.
Over 215 million school and work hours are lost annually due to oral infection and pain. The cost to society from absenteeism and loss of productivity has been estimated to be $144 billion per year.