When Sharon Turner, dean of the University of Kentucky College of Dentistry, talked to Keeneland Association officials about the possibility of partnering to offer free dental screenings, she received an immediate positive response.
“For 75 years, Keeneland has existed to serve and invest in the equine industry and the community it supports. Today is a real tangible example of that effort,” said Turner of Keeneland, which announced it will collaborate with the UK College of Dentistry and Blue Grass Farms Charities to provide free dental screenings for the children of horse industry employees.
The screening will take place July 30 at Keeneland and will use one of the college of dentistry's mobile dental units. The mobile units also provide screenings at Fayette County schools and throughout Eastern and Western Kentucky.
The Keeneland screenings will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and will be open to children between the ages of 4 and 10 who have a parent or guardian affiliated with the Thoroughbred industry. UK dental professors and residents will staff the effort, which the partners hope to expand to screenings during the racetrack's October and April meets.
"This screening opens the door to providing more access to affordable care for members of our community who need it most," said Turner. "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 pre-term, low-birth weight babies to diabetes."
Specifically, Turner said the dental faculty will use the screenings to evaluate the oral health needs of children, many of whom will likely be referred to the school's Twilight Clinic for more extensive care. The clinic provides after-hours dental care at free or significantly reduced fees for the children of families who cannot otherwise afford it. Moreover, the clinic provides training for dental students, preparing them for positive interactions with children as they move into dental practices.
In addition to providing a location for the screening, Keeneland has committed along with Blue Grass Farms Charities to help cover further dental care costs at the Twilight Clinic.
“The notion is that finances will not keep a child from getting the care they need,” said Mary Lee-Butte, executive director of Blue Grass Farms Charities. “My staff and I are committed to working hard over the next 10 days to reach out to our lower-income industry parents to bring the children out to this free clinic.”
Turner noted how Keeneland and UK have partnered on a number of initiatives over the years, starting in 1947 when the association gave the university its first electron microscope. In recent years, the two institutions have partnered--through the Maker's Mark bottle program--to raise funds for cancer research, music outreach, and education programs throughout the state.
"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 is the University of Kentucky. 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."
Added Dr. Mary Lynn Capilouto, wife of UK president Eli Capilouto: “This is a wonderful milestone that shows the strength of (Keeneland and UK’s) shared commitment and set of values toward an industry that is critical to the economic health of our state and the people that work in it.”