Kids get free dental cleanings at schools in Battlement Mesa
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
A successful project matched schoolchildren needing urgent dental care with free service from hygienists.
More than 220 children in the Garfield County School District 16 received free dental cleanings over the past two weeks. The initiative is funded by a grant provided by the Caring for Colorado Foundation. The grant is being administered by Garfield County Public Health in cooperation with Western Colorado Area Health Education Center.
The funding places a registered dental hygienist in two D-16 schools to provide children with professional cleanings, fluoride varnish and dental sealants. Students will receive a follow-up cleaning in the fall.
Garfield County Special Projects Coordinator/Health Educator Carrie Godes explained, “The hygienists were able to work with the entire class and educate them on how to care for their teeth. The students were engaged, involved, and really took an interest in their oral health.”
Godes noted, “The most rewarding part was when children in older grades (not involved in the initiative) would come up to us asking if we could examine their teeth.”
“We are so excited to be able to provide these services to children,” said hygienist Katherine Harvey.
Harvey noted that many families do not understand that 99 percent of cavities are preventable through proper preventive dental health care. In Colorado, 7.8 million hours of school are lost each year due to oral pain, and 27 percent of kindergartners have untreated tooth decay.
This problem is representative of a larger issue facing Garfield County. There are limited resources for children and families needing affordable dental care.
To combat these issues, a local coalition of dentists, hygienists, and health and human service organizations has formed to begin looking at sustainable dental solutions for low-income households. To become involved in this coalition, or to lend support to countywide dental initiatives such as this, contact the Garfield County Public Health Department at 625-5200.
This project was attempted in four counties on the Western Slope. Garfield County had the highest number of respondents (parents turning in permission slips for children to have their teeth cleaned). Some counties had as few as 27 respondents.
Free dental care in the Roaring Fork Valley
The Roaring Fork Resource Center is also offering free dental care provided by Drs. Heim and Johnson DDS PC. Parents of children up to age 13 may make appointments for noon to 5 p.m. on these dates: May 4 at Glenwood Springs Elementary School, call Lisa at 384-6055; April 30 at Basalt Elementary School, call Pam at 384-5855; and April 29 at Carbondale Bridges Center, call Cheryl at 384-5746.
Kay Vasilakis’ “Nonprofit Spotlight” column runs every other Wednesday in the Glenwood Springs Post Independent. She is a member of the Garfield County Human Services Commission.
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