Program Focuses on 15% of County Children Who Have Never Seen a Dentist
The cafeteria at T.S. MacQuiddy Elementary School was filled with more giggles and smiles than usual on September 25 where Dientes Community Dental Care’s Outreach Team was set up to provide dental services. Twenty–seven elementary school kids received oral exams, x-rays, fluoride treatments and sealants through the Outreach Program, which has recently expanded to include four more schools in South County and one in Mid-County. The addition of these schools brings Dientes’ Outreach locations to 25 local elementary schools across five school districts with 12 of them in the PVUSD.
Dientes’ Outreach Program looks to remove barriers like cost and transportation for families who might have a difficult time getting to the dentist. The 2018 Oral Health Access Santa Cruz County Report Card revealed that 15.3% of all children had never been to the dentist, which is down from 30% in 2016.
Across the country, the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research shows that tooth pain and untreated dental decay is still the number one reason lower-income kids miss school. Children dealing with chronic tooth pain have a harder time focusing in school and are up to four times as likely to have a low GPA—which can have lifelong implications.
“By focusing on prevention, we are hoping to set children up with a healthy future to avoid problems before they start,” explained Nicole Mello, Dientes’ Interim Outreach Manager. “Providing more access to care, and preventative services like sealants, is our way of planning for the future of oral health for our county.”
Six-year old Oribe said he was surprised to see the mobile dental team in his cafeteria. “I like the machines that tickle my teeth,” he said with a giggle after getting a fluoride treatment, adding that he liked being visited by the dentist at his school, “But I like being visited by the tooth fairy more!”
Oribe didn’t leave his visit empty handed, all 27 of the children who received an exam by Dientes also received hygiene bags and an oral health report card for their parents.