Bringing dental care to children in schools helps care for neglected teeth during the pandemic | Trending Viral hub

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CONCORD, N.H. — Hidden inside the staff room of a New Hampshire elementary school, Amber Warner was having her teeth checked for the first time.

The 5-year-old sat in what looked like a beach chair and wore a pair of dark sunglasses while certified public health dental hygienist Mary Davis examined Amber’s teeth and then, using a small syringe, applied traditional dental sealants, which had the consistency of a fingernail. gel.

“Close and clench your teeth, bite down like you’re biting into a hot dog or a cheeseburger,” Davis told Amber, making sure the sealants were done correctly. After that, Davis flossed all the “popcorn and chicken.” , pizza between your teeth.” The entire visit lasted 15 minutes.

“Look at you. You’re a professional on your first visit to the dentist. I’m so proud of you,” Davis told the kindergartner, who stood up from his chair and was hugged by a teacher’s aide.

The portable clinic is part of a cavity prevention program developed by the New York University School of Dentistry and being implemented in Concord and two other New Hampshire districts. CaredAway New Hampshire hopes to expand to Maine and Vermont, and eventually nationwide, as part of a growing effort to improve pediatric oral health, especially in children from low-income families.

There is no good national estimate of dental programs in schools, but many larger school districts have them. The Boston University program operates in 20 schools and 30 preschools in Boston and eight other Massachusetts cities and covers 3,000 children ages 6 months to 21 years. In New York City, 81,000 students in 820 schools (a little more than half of all public schools) received treatment last year.

Nationwide Children’s Hospital has served 1,700 children in central Ohio since 2021 with its traveling school dental clinics, while Ready, Set, Smile, a Minnesota nonprofit, is in 44 Twin Cities schools, serving 2,225 children.

“Dental care is generally considered an extra or an add-on,” said Terri Chandler, founder and CEO of Future Smiles in Clark County, Nevada, which includes Las Vegas and serves 7,500 children in 75 schools. “It’s not part of health care.”

Nearly half of all American children do not receive regular dental care, according to a 2022 report from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, which is a federal agency.

That can quickly lead to cavities: more than half of children ages 6 to 8 had a cavity in at least one baby tooth and more than half of teenagers ages 12 to 19 have a cavity in at least one of the teeth. permanent teeth, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Too many children don’t visit a dentist before entering school, forcing them to go to the hospital for treatment for a host of cavities, said Catherine Hayes of the Harvard School of Dental Medicine.

“If their parents don’t receive any oral health education at the doctor’s office, these children develop extensive cavities,” he said, noting that healing can take a month or more. And he added: “…It is completely preventable. “We know how to prevent it.”

At Boston Children’s Hospital, there is an eight- to nine-month waiting list for the dental clinic, said Man Wai Ng, the head dentist. Ng points in part to the worsening of dental care during the pandemic.

“I have patients who went to bed without brushing their teeth. They ate and drank at all hours of the day because those normal daily routines didn’t exist,” Ng said. “They couldn’t get in for…preventive dental care. “Children developed more dental diseases without the possibility of receiving timely care.”

Ruth Langwell struggled to find a dentist for her granddaughter Lola, a 10-year-old girl who has autism. Recently she was able to take the girl to the clinic.

“She needs someone who is very patient, obviously… We tried two other dentists and they were reluctant because of Lola’s challenges,” said Langwell, who added that he wanted Lola to see a dentist when she was 2, but it did not. t up to five years.

The challenge for many programs, especially mobile and school-based clinics, is sustainability, said Richard Niederman, professor of epidemiology and health promotion at NYU Dentistry and founder of CaredAway. That’s because school programs like Neiderman’s rely heavily on donations because they often serve low-income populations who don’t have health insurance or receive Medicaid.

Niederman has spent two decades developing his program. Others he tried in the Bronx and Boston ended due to lack of funding, but this time, Niederman has $1 million from Northeast Delta Dental, ensuring his New Hampshire program will remain in place for at least three years.

“It breaks my heart that kids aren’t getting the effective care they could be getting…and the system isn’t supporting it,” she said.

But the pediatric oral health landscape is improving, even outside of school programs.

Untreated cavities in preschool children have decreased 50% since 2000, according to the federal dental research agency report. He noted increased use of sealants, which prevent cavities.

Jane Grover, senior director of the American Dental Association’s Prevention and Access Advocacy Council, said there has been “tremendous growth” of dental programs at community health centers, as well as efforts to deploy dental hygienists in offices. pediatrics.

Some states are also better coordinating pediatric and dental care. MassHealth, Massachusetts’ Medicaid program, began requiring doctors last year to make sure a child had two applications of fluoride varnish and refer him or her to a dentist, Hayes said.

“I remember my first dental cleaning and it left a lasting impression,” Grover said. “We want kids to understand that, but we want their families to understand that sugary drinks all day on primary teeth, where the enamel is a little thinner than on permanent teeth, it doesn’t take long… to go from one “potentially serious situation to a very serious situation.”

Neiderman’s team treated more than 60 students over a week at the Concord school. Among them was soft-spoken 10-year-old Evette Sesay, who dutifully detailed how she brushes her teeth twice a day and flosses.

He wondered aloud if the treatment would “hurt,” only to be assured by Davis that he shouldn’t, but that he could raise his hand if he felt pain. Evette, who went to the clinic because she “wanted to check” her teeth, never did.

She said it felt like a typical exam at her dentist’s office: “They cleaned my teeth very well. The taste of the gum was good too.”

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