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December 27, 2013

Okla. dentists bring smiles to students

— Even during that awkward tooth stage–when one is about to lose the teeth they just got–there can be problems.

MobileSmiles Oklahoma visited Bill Wallace Early Childhood Center on Dec. 20 to provide free dental care to nine students.

The fully-equipped, self-contained, two-dental chair office travels across the state providing free dental care. Inside, it looks just like a compact dental office. It even smells like a dental office.

Rural Oklahoma can particularly benefit from the program, according to Steve Hudson, Community Coordinator for the Oklahoma Dental Foundation.

For this age group, MobileSmiles mostly takes care of cavities, extractions, preventative varnishes and teeth cleanings, Hudson said. However, when caring for adult patients, the portable dentists often see the effects of little access to dental care.

There are many reasons Oklahomans young and old don't make it to the dentist as often as needed. There is a shortage of dentists that take Sooner Care, a health coverage program jointly funded by the federal and state government, Hudson said. Also, in rural Oklahoma, residents may not have a dentist in their area. Common problems such as parents not being able to take off work to take their children–or themselves–to the dentist office also factor in.

In southwest Oklahoma, there is approximately one dentist for every 3,000 adults, Susan Hudson, Program Relations Manager, said.

One of the main problems students face is a lack of oral hygiene education, Callie Schlatter, Bill Wallace Early Childhood Center health and PE instructor as well as site coordinator for MobileSmiles' visit, said. The school no longer has a health class, Schlatter said.

Bill Wallace Early Childhood Center approached DentalSmiles to take care of selected students. The school nurse, teachers or coaches are the ones who submit the form to parents if they have noticed a student having problems. However, it was difficult to get parental consent, Schlatter said.

"We were lucky to get nine applicants," Schlatter said.

Students were prioritized by pain and discomfort level.  One student had been crying because of tooth pain.

Bill Wallace Early Childhood Center got a grant for MobileSmiles through Schools for Healthy Lifestyles, an Oklahoma program that promotes healthy lifestyle choices for students.

Since 2006, the mobile dental program has seen over 11,500 patients.

MobileSmiles Oklahoma is a program co-managed by the Oklahoma Dental Foundation and Delta Dental of Oklahoma Oral Health Foundation.


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