Dental problems can affect a person's ability to speak, chew, smile, and can affect psychosocial well being. Oral health is important to a person’s general health and a person’s quality of life, but there is a large number of kids at the elementary school I serve in who lack a private dentist and do not see the dentist regularly. There are various reasons for this, such as parents feeling they have to prioritize their health needs due to cost, lack of insurance, transportation barriers, etc.
I have been working on several dental health projects during my time at Hibbard Elementary School to address this issue and to connect patients to the dental health services available at the school clinic. Projects have included promoting the dental services to parents, teaching dental health classes to students, and also collaborating with the Chicago Department of Public Health’s dental sealant program.
This program through the Department of Public Health visited the elementary school for 2 weeks, seeing about 800 students, cleaning their teeth, applying sealants, and screening them for cavities. The program then leaves the school after 2 weeks and is unable to provide additional services to the students they identified with cavities or a serious dental infection.
So what happened to the kids with identified cavities and infections but without a private dentist?
We treated them at the school clinic at no cost! When a student was identified with cavities or an emergency/urgent dental infection, I scheduled them dental appointments immediately. At the clinic, we have a full dental suite and all dental services are free to students, including cleanings, sealants, crowns for baby teeth, fillings, extractions, x-rays, etc.
Connecting students to the school clinic helps improve access to dental health services by eliminating cost, transportation, and scheduling concerns. Services are free; students just walk down the hallway to the dentist while they’re at school, and parents don’t have to worry about taking off from work to take their child to an appointment. So far, about 80 students identified with dental needs have been connected to the dental services in the school-based health center and have started their treatment plans.
Many students have been connected to treatment, which can sometimes be difficult or pricey to access. With this connection to the clinic, students and families have found a dental home which they can visit regularly for preventative care, not just after pain and problems have developed.
This blog post was written by NHC Chicago 2016-17 member Fabiana Simone.
Fabiana is a Health Promoter at Heartland Health Center - Roosevelt and Hibbard.