Dawson County Schools recently partnered with Help a Child Smile to provide free dental care to 96 Dawson County children.
According to Janice Darnell, Executive Director of Instructional Support and Student Services for the school system, the idea to partner with the program first started with conversations between the school nurses.
"One of the things that our school nurses had noticed was students coming to see the nurse because they were having pain with their mouth,” Darnell said. “I didn’t even know that this existed, but the director of our student health services kind of brought it to my attention and said ‘will you look at this a little closer’ and it ended up working out beautifully,”
After much research and discussion with the school nurses, Darnell was able to help bring the Help a Child Smile mobile dentistry bus to the school system. Children in Dawson County schools were able to pre-register, and volunteer dentists performed dental care from the mobile dentist’s office.
“The dentists are volunteers from all across the state, but some are retired and some are still in an active practice and donate a day or two each month, but they’re all ADA certified,” Darnell said. “They will perform all services except orthodontics or orthodontic surgery or oral surgery, but basic dental care or something like a basic filling they can take care of.”
Darnell said that, for students whose parents may not be able to afford dental care, the program can make a huge difference.
“They may be on like a medicaid for example but it makes it more difficult to be able to find a provider for children with those types of situations, so it’s really great that even transportation is not an issue in this case,” Darnell said. "Our nurses are trained so they can do the initial screening but this way we can actually follow up to provide that six-month service.”
According to Darnell, a good portion of the students who received dental care were those who had also attended the program in the fall. There were also several students who were new to the program, which she said is encouraging to her and the other organizers of it.
“A lot of those students that were seen in the spring were repeats from the fall and there for their six-month checkup, but some of them were brand-new as well,” Darnell said. “It’s a great program; we’ve just been really pleased with the product we’ve had and the participation.”
Darnell said that the hope for the program moving forward is to continue growing so that the bus can come every 6 months and stay in the county for a full day to serve even more people.
“We hope to be able to keep doing it, and hopefully our participation rates will increase,” Darnell said. “We’re really excited and hope that we can not just continue it but grow the program to be able to provide those services for our families too.”
For more information on the Help a Child Smile program, go to https://www.hcsga.com/.