Las Vegas Sun

October 23, 2018

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Dental schools to offer free services to at-risk schoolchildren

The Clark County School District on Thursday unanimously approved a partnership with the UNLV and CSN dental programs to provide free oral health screenings and services to at-risk schoolchildren.

The free dental care will be provided through the Seal Nevada South Program, which has helped thousands of students receive sealants, fluoride varnish applications and oral health education since 2005.

The program was put on hold last year because of a lack of state funding, but a $25,000 grant from Oral Health America, a Chicago-based nonprofit, has revived it through June 2013, said Christina Demopoulos, an assistant clinical professor at the UNLV School of Dental Medicine.

The program will target second- through fifth-grade students at six Clark County schools where more than 50 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. Those schools have not yet been identified, said Demopoulos, who will manage the program.

Recent studies have found cavities and tooth decay are prevalent among Nevada schoolchildren. A report by the United Way and Nevada Community Foundation last year found that Nevada has the highest percentage of third-graders — 67 percent — with tooth decay in the country. A more recent UNLV report found that 44 percent of Nevada students have a cavity by the time they enter kindergarten.

Dental problems make it difficult for students to concentrate in class and eat meals, and may lead to other complications, such as headaches and earaches, Demopoulos said.

“There is a great demand for dental care and with the current economy, there are a lot of people who are losing their dental benefits,” she said. “We want to be in the community creating awareness around dental care and providing a dental home for kids.”

This will be the first year about 160 UNLV dental students and 30 dental hygiene students from CSN will help licensed dentists conduct screenings and provide preventive services to students at the school. In previous years, Clark County students in need were referred to the dental school’s Shadow Lane campus to receive free dental care from licensed professionals.

“For parents who don’t have means to come to the dental school, this will be wonderful” Demopoulos said. “A good majority (of dental issues) can be treated at school.”

The agreement with the School District provides for a designated classroom for dentists and dental students to use.

The free dental clinics will be offered from 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. two to three days a week on a rotating schedule among the selected schools. Students will need a signed permission slip, consent form and medical history form.

Demopoulos said she hopes to expand the program to more schools and provide more than just preventative dental care, such as sealants and varnishes.

Later this year, there are plans to offer restorative dental work, such as fillings and crowns that treats cavities, Demopoulos said.

“The more we can offer in preventative care, the less cavities and health issues kids have,” she said. “A lot of kids right now go to school with (tooth) pain.”

For more information, visit UNLV's School of Dental Medicine website.

CORRECTION: This article was corrected to reflect that Oral Health America is based in Chicago, not Washington, D.C. | (September 12, 2011)

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