Between September 28 and December 13, Community Health Center of Snohomish County (CHC) dentists and staff provided no-cost dental screenings in eight Mukilteo School District Schools. All families with students in grades K-6 were provided the opportunity and 1,317 “Smile Checks” were performed at the students’ school during a regular school day. With staffing and supplies, the program provided nearly $20,000 in dental services for students, at no cost to their families.
“The most chronic childhood condition is tooth decay,” said Anna Scheglov, Dental Operations Director for CHC. “Tooth decay left untreated can cause a child pain and infection, as well as lead to serious lifelong issues with eating, speaking, and learning. CHC would like to improve access to dental care in our community and raise awareness of untreated dental decay.”
As a result of the Smile Check, 251 students (19%) were identified as having urgent dental needs and 58 students had emergent dental needs (4.5%); these dental needs included issues from caries (cavities) to deep/rampant caries, infections, pain, and/or broken teeth. CHC staff worked with families to get these students treated by a dentist as soon as possible.
“The Mukilteo School District was pleased to partner with the Community Health Center to provide smile checks to our students,” said Sarah Cossette, Registered Nurse at Lake Stickney Elementary School. “Many families were seen in follow-up and a lot of dental concerns were addressed and corrected. We are so thankful to CHC for being able to screen so many of our students.”
“This was our first dental outreach with students since COVID began,” said Dr. Sue Yoon, Chief Dental Officer for CHC. “We had to be flexible with snow disruptions and other challenges, but the Smile Checks team was met with incredible enthusiasm from families. It was wonderful to be back in the schools to meet this need.”
Scheglov noted that two of the biggest barriers to children’s dental care in underserved communities is education and access. By going into the schools to provide free screenings, CHC can connect with parents and provide important oral health education. The team performs the Smile Checks during school hours, so parents and guardians do not have to take time off work. Team members work around language barriers and other issues that could prevent important dental healthcare. After the screenings, each child received a report card to take home with information about how, where, and why to get regular pediatric dental care.
Smile Checks were available to all families in participating schools, regardless of insurance status. 55% of the students screened had state Medicaid coverage and 43.7% did not have insurance or were self-pay.
“The parents that have [followed up] have been very happy and very grateful,” Scheglov said. “It was very convenient for them and they were thankful for the screening. Many had been unaware of the issues in their child’s mouth simply because they don’t know about oral health. It is our hope that this program leads to improved dental health for these students and their families long term.”