Adriana Castillo brought her two sons, Adrian and David Rodriguez, to Keeneland racetrack Saturday for a free dental screening at a mobile unit from the University of Kentucky College of Dentistry.
"It's really important because it brings good hygiene and health," Castillo said.
The Rodriguez brothers were among as many as 50 children of horse industry employees to receive free screenings in the mobile unit. It was offered through a partnership among the Keeneland Association, which runs the racetrack; the UK College of Dentistry; and Blue Grass Farms Charities, a non-profit that works with the underserved population associated with the Thoroughbred industry.
Adrian and David's father works on a horse farm, Castillo said.
UK dental professors and residents staffed the mobile unit at Keeneland, and officials hope to offer screenings during the racetrack's October and April meets.
Saturday's screenings opened "the door to providing more access to affordable care for members of our community who need it most," Sharon Turner, dean of the College of Dentistry, said in a statement.
"At the same time, it provides an important educational opportunity for our students, who we expect to be leaders in addressing poor oral health. The fact is that poor oral health left untreated is associated with a host of serious health problems — from preterm, low-birth-weight babies to diabetes."
On Saturday morning, as children and their parents streamed in and out of the mobile unit, Turner said she and others working on the screenings were looking ahead at how they could broaden the program offered at Keeneland.
"For 75 years, Keeneland's core mission has been to invest our resources back into the horse industry and the communities we serve," said Nick Nicholson, Keeneland's president and CEO. "One of our partners in that effort — and one of the institutions that we have invested in — is the University of Kentucky. Our shared values are predicated on the idea of service. Together, with the Blue Grass Farms Charities, we can improve the lives of our valued workers and their families by addressing the critical issue of oral health."
Turner said the dental faculty would use the screenings to evaluate the oral health needs of children, many of whom probably will be referred to the school's Twilight Clinic for more extensive care. The clinic provides after-hours dental care for free or significantly reduced fees for the children of families who would not otherwise be able to afford it. The clinic also provides training for dental students.
Keeneland Association officials said they and UK have worked together on a number of initiatives during the past 75 years, starting in 1947 when the association gave the university its first electron microscope. In recent years, the two institutions have partnered through the sale of limited-edition Maker's Mark bottles to raise money for cancer research and for music outreach and education programs throughout the state.
The UK College of Dentistry also operates mobile dental units that provide screenings at public schools in Fayette County and throughout the state.