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Pearly whites for a paltry price

Wailuku dentist cleans keiki’s teeth for free

Dr. Emilie Sumida poses in the Children’s Dentistry of Maui office Friday afternoon in Wailuku. Sumida offered some of her keiki clients a free teeth cleaning last month since some clients were canceling their appointments because their families lost their health insurance in the pandemic. — The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

To alleviate some of the financial stress associated with COVID-19, along with trying to help provide more access to healthcare, a Wailuku-based dentist offered some of her clients free teeth cleaning last month.

While going through the office’s daily schedule, Dr. Emilie Sumida of Children’s Dentistry of Maui noticed “frequent cancellations” by longtime patients whose families lost their insurance due to the pandemic.

“We definitely wanted to do something more for the community and we saw this as an opportunity that needed immediate attention,” Sumida said on Friday.

On April 29, 10 children received free professional cleanings and fluoride treatment at the Wailuku office, and were given oral healthcare kits that included toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss and little prizes.

At the Children’s Dentistry of Maui, out-of-pocket costs for a teeth cleaning combined with the oral exam is around $248.

Dr. Emilie Sumida works in her office Friday. — The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

“We definitely wanted to take care of the patients that have been loyal to the practice and that have already consented to treatment with us in the past, so the parents were extremely grateful for it,” she said.

Prior to purchasing Children’s Dentistry of Maui in December 2020, the pediatric dentistry practitioner worked at the Malama I Ke Ola Health Center for five years.

At both places, she had the same goal of providing “safe and quality dental care to children” in the Maui community.

“It was all so rewarding to me,” she said.

Sumida said that Children’s Dentistry plans to schedule more free teeth cleaning days in the future based on demand and as “we hear from more patients who are canceling their appointments due to loss of insurance.”

“I was personally furloughed for nine months through the pandemic so I completely understand what it means to prioritize bills, but a child’s dental health is important in general and delaying dental care, it can lead to bigger problems,”she said. “Families do not need bigger problems in today’s climate, so that’s why it’s definitely important to have continued regular checkups as they are growing.”

During times when families cannot access regular dental appointments, Sumida encourages parents to help their keiki practice good oral hygiene, like eating healthy foods, flossing and brushing teeth.

“With the pandemic, routines have changed, doing distance learning and being at home, so we want to make sure that we are continuing to brush twice a day for 2 minutes with fluoride toothpaste,” she said. “Especially being home all day, we’re snacking more frequently and depending on what we’re snacking on, it can increase your risk of cavities.”

* Dakota Grossman can be reached at dgrossman@mauinews.com.

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