Helping flash a bright smile

Walking away with a new toothbrush and toothpaste in hand and flashing a fresh, white smile, a young Cridersville Elementary School student who had never before been to the dentist got that chance Tuesday at school.
Sponsored by St. Rita’s Medical Center, the Health Partners of Western Ohio Dental Prevention Program visit area schools in the fall with a dentist checking those students whose parents gave permission for them to receive preventative dental services, with referrals made to the mobile lab or to their clinic for other services. In the lab, students’ teeth are examined and cleaned and they are given fluoride and sealant treatments based upon need.
Lynne Adams, a registered nurse and dental hygienist who coordinates the in-school dental prevention program, said through it they are hoping to not only improve the students’ health, but help them develop better dental habits.
“Dental cavities are the highest unmet need in children,” said Adams, explaining how problems with teeth can develop into much worse situations affecting the entire body. “Here we are able to reach a lot more kids who we would not normally meet and we are able to help and educate them.”
She said they can provide the students with needed services and refer them to their clinics to get additional help.
Wapakoneta City Schools Nurse Jeannie VanHorn said something not everyone may understand is that good dental health contributes to overall good health in the whole body.
“The entire body is affected with infection in a tooth,” VanHorn said. “It’s looked at as not that important, but it is very important to overall health and self-esteem.”
Another challenge with getting children dental care is that most dentists don’t accept medical cards and many parents don’t have dental insurance, VanHorn said, noting that cost is not a factor with the mobile lab.
These services are provided at no cost to parents, insurance is billed only if they have it. There is no cost to the school district. If referred to the clinic for additional services, those are charged on a sliding fee scale.
The checkups are offered to students in second, third, sixth and seventh grades as part of the Health Partners mission to “eliminate gaps in health outcomes for all members of the community by providing access to quality, affordable, preventative, primary healthcare.”
Through its clinic, located at 441 East 8th St., Health Partners of Western Ohio also provides medical, pediatric, behavioral health and alternative medicine services, as well as a full-service pharmacy, in addition to dental work. For those without insurance, Medicaid or Medicare, fees will be reduced based on household size and income. No one is turned away because of inability to pay.
Dr. W. R. Searcy, of Wapakoneta, serves as the mobile dentist directing the program.
The program is new to the Wapakoneta City Schools District but makes annual visits to several area schools, including all the Lima City Schools, Bath, Allen East, Kenton, Perry, New Carlisle, and several charter schools, among others.
Throughout the district, approximately 100 children are being seen through the mobile dental lab in its first year visiting Wapakoneta City Schools.
“We want to continue to grow,” dental assistant Linda Messer said. “We want to reach as many kids as we can with our service.”