A local pediatric dentist is taking steps to reverse the alarming increase in the number of very young children with bad teeth.

Dr. Leonard Smith has practised pediatric dentistry in Calgary for more than four decades. In that time, he's noticed a disturbing trend in the number of very young children suffering from serious dental problems..

“Dental disease in children at this young age is epidemic now,” said Dr. Smith. “In fact, the surgeon-general, in the year 2000, called it the silent epidemic.”

“It involves 28 per cent of all children under the age of five.”

Dr. Smith has established not-for-profit organizations in both Canada and the United States to bring awareness to the epidemic. The pediatric dentist hoped to convince government officials and his peers to take a stand against the issue.

Dr. Smith has sold his clinic to Dr. Farida Saher but continues to perform surgical procedures on young patients. Dr. Saher says she finds inspiration in the contributions of Dr. Smith.

“What he's done for dentistry and pediatric dentistry is undebatable,” said Dr. Saher. “He was the first pediatric dentist in Calgary and a large portion of the pediatric dentists who are in Calgary are here as a consequence of him.”

Leonard Smith and Steve Allen, the current chair of the Calgary Economic Development Board, were high school classmates in the early 1960s. Allen was not surprised Smith would successfully champion for a worthy cause.

“Len has a way of communicating it that's simple and understandable,” explained Allen. “With that passion that comes from forty years of practice in this area and, I think a frustration that it's such a simple thing (to fix). Why aren't we doing it?”

Dr. Smith says, in order to improve adolescent dental health, misguided perceptions need to be corrected.

“There's an attitude that still exists that they're only baby teeth, why do you care about fixing them? They're going to fall out. What isn't understood is the physical impact to the child.”

For his efforts to prevent the pain caused by early childhood dental problems, Dr. Leonard Smith is this week’s Inspiring Albertan.

With files from CTV's Darrel Janz