The Keeneland Association, the University of Kentucky College of Dentistry and Blue Grass Farms Charities announced Wednesday a partnership to provide free dental screenings for the children of horse industry employees.
The first of the free screenings will be July 30 at Keene land and will use one of the dentistry college's mobile units. The units are used to provide screenings at Fayette County schools and in Eastern and Western Kentucky.
The Keeneland screenings will be 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and are open to children ages 4 to 10 who have a parent or guardian affiliated with the Thoroughbred industry.
Keeneland has committed as much as $5,000 for the first phase of the project, which will give the children a quick visual screening — required by Kentucky state law for entry into school — and then explain the results to parents. Children with dental needs will be directed to UK's Twilight Clinic, which provides after-hours dental care for free or at reduced fees.
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Keeneland president and CEO Nick Nicholson said Keeneland was eager to participate in the initiative because dental health is "a meaningful aspect of a youngster's ability to learn."
Sharon Turner, dean of UK's College of Dentistry, said she wanted the dental school to extend its reach to populations that are difficult to serve. Poor oral health is associated with a raft of health problems, she said, including diabetes and low-birth-weight babies.
Keeneland, UK and the Blue Grass Farms Charities hope to expand the screenings to include the periods during Keeneland's October and April meets.
Pediatric dentistry presents immense challenges, Turner said.
"There is an enormous national shortage of pediatric dentists, and we can't graduate enough of them," Turner said.
Mary Lynne Capilouto, the wife of new UK president Eli Capilouto and the former dean of the dental school at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, said the initiative "exemplifies one of the reasons we came to Kentucky" — to help solve problems that have persistently troubled Kentucky citizens.