Summit Middle School now offers weekly low-cost dental care during summer | SummitDaily.com

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Summit Middle School now offers weekly low-cost dental care during summer

Summit Middle School has been shining smiles this summer.

Thanks to start-up funding from a new grant, the Summit Community Care Clinic started providing low-cost preventative dental health care at the school over the summer for the first time. The clinic's dental hygienists already have treated roughly 200 patients in June and July.

They will continue offering dental cleanings, screenings, oral health education, fluoride varnishes and sealants to students, school staff and their immediate family members on Thursday, Aug. 6, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. as well as the remaining two Thursdays of the summer.

The school health center accepts Medicaid, Child Health Plan Plus and some private insurance plans. Low-income, uninsured people can receive a full preventative visit for $20.

When school resumes for the fall on Aug. 24, the care will be offered multiple times a week at Summit High School, Summit Middle School, Dillon Valley Elementary and Silverthorne Elementary and will expand to include x-rays, said Erin Major, director of the care clinic's school-based health center program.

"Toothaches, tooth decay, tooth problems are one of the largest reasons kids miss school throughout the nation," she said. Now, "kids don't have to leave school for two to three hours. We can just take them out for 30 to 45 minutes."

Other students may not miss class, but they don't learn at their best if they're not healthy, she said. "Lots of kids do go around with some chronic pain situations with teeth. We just don't want that."

Funding for the enhanced dental health services was provided by Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation — the philanthropic arm of the state's largest dental insurance provider — which awarded $1.95 million to 16 Colorado primary care clinics over five years in an effort to increase access to preventative dental health services.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tooth decay is the most common chronic disease among U.S. children ages 6 to 11. Tooth decay is almost 100 percent preventable, according to the Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation, but 60 percent of low-income Colorado children suffer from untreated cavities.

Summit Community Care Clinic received roughly $148,000 for the first two years, said Lori Bowman-Falce, the clinic's data coordinator and billing specialist, who said she regularly hears about students excited because they didn't have a toothbrush and toothpaste at home.

The school-based health centers in Summit County use Summit Community Care Clinic staff to provide primary care, oral health and behavioral health services to students, staff and their immediate family members at clinics inside the county's public schools.

Major said though the care clinic was already providing oral health care at the schools, it was limited to screenings and arranging for students to receive more treatment at the care clinic if necessary.

The care clinic also has partnered with every private dentist in the county for years, Major said, and the dentists each have adopted at least one student a year to provide care when needed.

In the last couple years, the care clinic has backed up with dental appointments, so patients now schedule non-urgent care about four weeks in advance. Providing more dental services at school alleviates strain on the care clinic, Major said, as well as keeps kids in school and parents at work and helps families who may have medical but not dental insurance or have transportation barriers.

The grant allowed the care clinic to enhance dental care starting in February at the four Summit County schools as well as an elementary, middle and high school in Lake County. Bowman-Falce said care clinic staff did about 2,000 oral health screenings at the schools in the last school year.

In the fall, hygienists at the schools will send X-rays to dentists at the care clinic who can diagnose anything concerning and determine if a student needs an emergency appointment.

The Summit schools might add restorative services like fillings in the future, Major said. However, "we're going to start in Lake County probably this year because their need is so great."

To make an appointment at the Summit Middle School health center, call (970) 668-4040.