Pop-up den­tal clinic brings free check­ups to SLO County schools

The Tribune (SLO) - - Local - BY MONICA VAUGHAN

Free den­tal care is avail­able to stu­dents of some South County el­e­men­tary schools via a mo­bile, “pop-up” den­tal clinic — and the ser­vice will likely ex­pand across the county soon.

If you strug­gle to get your child to the den­tist be­cause of money, time or ac­cess to care, this is good news for your fam­ily. As many as 70 per­cent of chil­dren in some SLO County com­mu­ni­ties have cav­i­ties by the time they reach third grade.

It’s also good for the bud­gets of school dis­tricts, which re­ceive rev­enue based on at­ten­dance. Chil­dren of­ten miss school to re­ceive den­tal care and treat­ment, or be­cause of un­treated den­tal pain.

Since mid-Fe­bru­ary, a state-funded pro­gram brings a den­tal hy­gien­ist and care co­or­di­na­tor to three el­e­men­tary schools to pro­vide clean­ings, Xrays, flu­o­ride treat­ment and sealants, ac­cord­ing to a news re­lease from Pub­lic Health. They bring all the nec­es­sary equip­ment and set up in a room at each school.

They can send records elec­tron­i­cally to Dr. Don Tran, who can then pro­vide more complex treat­ment if needed.

Fund­ing from a new to­bacco tax is one of the rev­enue sources for the pro­gram.

So far, el­e­men­tary schools in Grover Beach, Ar­royo Grande and Nipomo have re­ceived vis­its from the pop-up den­tal clinic. The ser­vice is open to all stu­dents at those schools.

The pro­gram will soon

ex­pand to three more schools in the Lu­cia Mar school dis­trict and to other ar­eas in the county next year.

FILL­ING A HEALTH CARE GAP

For many chil­dren, a visit to the pop-up clinic was their first ex­pe­ri­ence with pro­fes­sional den­tal care.

“We’re fi­nally go­ing to stop see­ing kid af­ter kid af­ter kid with oral health prob­lems that are not just left in the mouth, they ac­tu­ally go on to cause all man­ner of other prob­lems,” said Pub­lic Health Of­fi­cer Penny Boren­stein dur­ing a demon­stra­tion of the clinic on Tues­day.

The sit­u­a­tion is worse for fam­i­lies that can­not af­ford den­tal care, a spe­cific prob­lem for those who rely on Medi-Cal Den­tal be­cause few den­tists in San Luis Obispo County ac­cept the state in­sur­ance, ac­cord­ing to pub­lic health of­fi­cials. In the 2015-16 school year, only 45 per­cent of chil­dren en­rolled in Medi-Cal Den­tal saw a den­tist.

Dr. Tran is one of the few den­tists in the county who ac­cepts Medi-Cal Den­tal ben­e­fits.

Chil­dren in fam­i­lies that can­not af­ford den­tal care missed twice as many days of school as those who can af­ford care, ac­cord­ing to a 2009 UCLA re­search brief.

“It’s been a great thing for our school,” said Grover Beach El­e­men­tary School Prin­ci­pal James Sny­der. “I see two main ben­e­fits. One is that the kids get the den­tal care they oth­er­wise might not get. There’s also the fact that it can help with ab­sen­teeism. ... I see it as a win-win-win for the school dis­trict, the kids and par­ents.”

If left un­cared for, cav­i­ties can lead to pain and missed school days, and could cause more complex health prob­lems in the fu­ture. For ex­am­ple, tooth de­cay could reach the nerve or the tooth root, which would re­quire a root canal or ex­trac­tion.

Par­ents in­ter­ested in en­rolling can contact the Pub­lic Health den­tal pro­gram at www.slo­county .ca.gov/den­tal or call (in English or Span­ish) 805781-5564.

Cour­tesy SLO County Pub­lic Health

A den­tal hy­gien­ist with SLO County’s new pop-up den­tal clinic demon­strates an ex­am­i­na­tion on Am­ber Vil­lanti, with the county Pub­lic Health oral health pro­gram, at Grover Beach El­e­men­tary School .

Cour­tesy SLO County Pub­lic Health

A den­tal hy­gien­ist shows her equip­ment to stu­dents of Grover Beach El­e­men­tary School stu­dents dur­ing a demon­stra­tion of the new pop-up clinic.

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