REGION – The collaborative efforts of Springfield Medical Care Systems (SMCS), the Rural Oral Health Access (ROHA) committee, and the Fanny Holt Ames and Edna Louise Holt Fund (Holt Fund), are helping children across the region to receive dental screenings and cleanings in their local school settings.
The Children’s Dental Health Project came about after many planning hours by SMCS and ROHA members, and with generous financial support from the Holt Fund.
Dental health is important, especially for children. One in four children has tooth decay by age 5. A national survey found that one in seven children aged six to twelve had suffered a toothache in the previous six months. Children with poor oral health were nearly three times more likely to miss school because of dental pain, as reported in a 2011 American Public Health Association study, “Impact of Poor Oral Health on Children’s School Attendance and Performance.” Children who reported recent toothaches were four times more likely to have a lower grade point average than their peers reporting no dental pain. The consequences of untreated tooth decay include visits to emergency departments and urgent care walk-in centers for dental pain issues as well as lost time from school.
The goals of the Children’s Dental Health Project are to prevent tooth decay, to educate and encourage self-care among children and their parents, and to increase access to oral health treatment. Educational messages such as “Choose Tap Water for a Sparkling Smile,” which is the campaign slogan for National Children’s Dental Health Month, encourage healthy choices and are shared during each school visit.
This project makes a dental hygienist with portable equipment available to “screen and clean” children’s teeth in local school settings and apply sealants and fluoride varnish to school-age children.
School visits are currently taking place in the following area elementary schools: Grafton, Chester-Andover, Flood Brook, Townshend, Springfield and Jamaica. Future plans include adding other area elementary schools and, if resources allow, services will be offered to middle and high school students in the SMCS service area.
These school-based services will be provided with no out-of-pocket cost to families. Transportation assistance from schools to local dental clinics/offices for any needed follow-up treatment is also available.
SMCS is pleased to announce the recent hiring of Barbara Hodgkins, RDH, to lead this important program. Hodgkins has been a dental hygienist in the area for over 35 years. She has worked in private practice and also in school systems through the Vermont Tooth Tutor program. “It is important to children’s overall health that medical and dental services are closely aligned,” said Hodgkins. She added, “This program is a wonderful opportunity to provide area youth with early access to preventive dental care and education that will have a positive life-long impact on their oral and medical health.”
“The need for dental services was identified in our community health needs assessment as one of the top three health needs in our service area,” commented Timothy Ford, president and chief executive officer of SMCS. He adds, “We are pleased to report The Children’s Dental Health Project is now up and running – and reporting great results. Barbara has already visited hundreds of students in area schools. She has performed cleanings and sealants on more than 50 students to date. She is now a friendly and familiar face in the schools, and the children are excited and happy to have their teeth screened and cleaned.”
If you have questions about this program, or your child attends one of the schools listed above and you would like to participate in the program, please contact your local school nurse or call Barbara Hodgkins, RDH, at 802-875-2878, or email: BHodgkins@springfieldmed.org.