One York County resident is aiming to improve dental health among area youth with a free dental checkup session at the York County School of Technology in mid-March.

Smile Connections will have dentists, dental hygienists and dental assistants on hand to provide free dental exams, preventive care and referrals for treatment for children ages 6 to 17.

The event takes place 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday, March 17, at the school, located at 2179 S. Queen St. in York Township.

Julie Polito, a dental hygienist and the organizer for Smile Connections, said the event is similar to the Sealant Saturday annual events she organized for the past six years, which focused on preventive care by applying sealants on permanent molars.

However, Smile Connections will focus more on children getting the assistance they need to repair existing decay by referring children to affordable dental care institutions, as well as educating children and parents on how to maintain positive dental hygiene.

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Tooth decay was an issue Polito said she saw time and again during Sealant Saturdays and continues to see at her job.

"The prevalence of (tooth) decay in kids is frightening," she said, prompting her to cold-call dental professionals in the region to volunteer for the event.

A combination of dietary decisions and dental hygiene is to blame for the increase in young tooth decay, Polito added.

Frequent consumption of drinks and candies such as orange juice and gummy snacks causes plaque and harbors tooth decay, she said.

While referrals and education will be prioritized, Polito said children with no signs of tooth decay might still have the option of receiving a dental sealant free of charge at the event.

Parents are encouraged to call ahead for an appointment, but walk-ins are welcome and children will be seen on a first come, first served basis.

To schedule an appointment, call Smile Connections at 717-934-8176. Parents must accompany their child for them to be seen by a dental worker.

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