Las Vegas Sun

January 17, 2022

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Las Vegas dental clinic free to children ages 5 to 15

UNLV Children's Dental Prevention Clinic

Steve Marcus

Victoria Sullivan, director of the UNLV Children’s Dental Prevention Clinic, poses in an oral surgery suite at the UNLV School of Dental Medicine Friday, March 12, 2021. The clinic, a collaboration between the UNLV School of Dental Medicine and Liberty Dental Plan of Nevada, is free to children ages 5 to 15, whether or not they are insured.

UNLV Children's Dental Prevention Clinic

Victoria Sullivan, director of the UNLV Children's Dental Prevention Clinic, poses in an oral surgery suite at the UNLV School of Dental Medicine Friday, March 12, 2021. The clinic, a collaboration between the UNLV School of Dental Medicine and Liberty Dental Plan of Nevada, is free to children ages 5 to 15, whether or not they are insured. Launch slideshow »

The UNLV School of Dental Medicine and Liberty Dental Plan of Nevada have teamed up to provide dental care for low-income children.

The UNLV Children's Dental Prevention Clinic, which opened in January, is free to children ages 5 to 15, whether or not they are insured.

UNLV and Liberty partnered to open the clinic after school closures because the pandemic prevented children from getting dental checkups and sealant procedures sometimes provided at school.

"One of the saddest things we have seen, especially related to COVID, is children who had cavities and problems in mid-2019 didn’t make it (to the dentist) in 2020," said Victoria Sullivan, a dentist at the clinic.

The UNLV Children's Dental Prevention Clinic provides cleanings, X-rays and teeth sealants. Children can get root canals and cavity fillings on a case-by-case basis.

Last month, Liberty gave 5,000 dental kits — toothbrushes, toothpaste and floss — to Communities in Schools, a program that helps low-income students at risk of dropping out of school or failing.

"People who aren’t able to have great oral health when they are younger, it follows them into adulthood," said Molly Ellery, a spokeswoman for Liberty.

Taking a child for regular visits to the dentist costs pennies compared to the crowns, fillings and root canals necessary for adults who didn't take care of their teeth when they were children, Sullivan said.

Sullivan said one in three children also have gum health issues, and dentists can detect signs of sleep apnea, oral cancer, infections and viruses.

"The mouth is kind of the entry point for quite a bit of the body," Sullivan said.