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John Monfredo: Dental Care Improving Lives in Worcester Schools

Saturday, October 06, 2012


As schools review their data on absenteeism, many are finding out that one of the reasons children are missing school is due to tooth decay.  According in information coming out from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, over 52 million school hours are lost each year due to dental pain and dental visits.  Poor oral health has impacted school performance, social relationships and interaction, and success later in life.  Children experiencing pain are distracted and unable to concentrate on their school work.

Tooth decay remains the most common chronic disease of school children and it is five times more common than asthma.  National school and adolescent oral health initiatives strive to reach those students who do not have access to a dental care and provide resources through school health partnerships and collaborative activities that target children who are at risk for oral and dental disease like tooth decay. 

There are many stories about our children receiving dental services that bring this issue to light.  From UMASS are two such stories told by health providers from the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile that will bring tears to your eyes.

A first grade student was seen last year for a dental exam. As soon as the little boy sat in our chair he began to cry. We thought he was scared or had had a bad dental experience in the past. Come to find out he had such a bad tooth ache that he was unable to eat. When examined, the boy had a large abscess that appeared to have been there for some time. I was able to phone the boy’s mother, explain what we had seen and without hesitation the boy’s mother came down to the school and took him to have the area treated. Unfortunately the boy did not want to mention this toothache to his mother because he didn’t want to stay home or miss any school.  Fortunately on our next visit the boy was dentally healthy and his mother was very thankful we were able to identify this problem.
During one of last year’s fluoride varnish applications days (near Christmas), there were two little girls seen who happened to be sisters. On that particular day they had worn their pajamas to school because they did not have any school clothes. That night I went home, cleaned out my daughter’s closet and wound up with a rather large bag of clothes for these girls.  I brought the clothes in the very next day and the girls were so excited to have “new” clothes to wear to school. Some months later their mother came in to thank me for the “gifts" of clothes and beautiful healthy teeth.

Our city is very fortunate that there are so many caring individuals who continue to reach out to make a difference in the lives of the children in this community.

In Worcester there are many schools where dental health assistance has been provided to its students. The UMass Memorial Ronald McDonald Care Mobile (The hope on Wheels dental mobile) provides care to the following schools:
Abby Kelly Foster, Worcester Arts Magnet, Belmont Community School, Canterbury Elementary, Chandler Street School, City View, New Citizens School, Columbus Park, Elm Park, Gates Lane, Flagg Street, Jacob Hiatt, Quinsigamond Elementary, Rice Square, and Seven Hills Charter School.  

All of the children seen receive oral hygiene Education/instruction as well as dental care.

Quinsigamond Community College dental hygiene programs provide assistance to the following elementary schools: 

Burncoat Prep, Lincoln Street, Lake View, Union Hill, Grafton Street, Chandler Magnet, McGrath and Vernon Hill.
The students receive screening, fluoride varnish applications, and oral hygiene education instruction.  In addition, in the Kid Seal program the students receive a dentist exam, dental cleaning, fluoride varnish, oral hygiene education instruction, and referrals if needed.

Just like UMASS has a story that warmed your heart so does Quinsigamond College Hygiene program:

During one of the recent Kid Seal Programs, it was mentioned to one of the volunteer dental hygienists and dentists that this was the ONLY CLASS TRIP (to the dental clinic) that these students would have. The following year that same dental hygienist and dentist gave money to these schools so that they could have a real 6th grade class trip.

On a separate occasion, one volunteer from the community gave a ten week summer camp gift to one of the sixth grade girls who was having difficulty living in her home.

The next site to highlight is the Massachusetts Department of Public Health

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health also provides dental health to the students in the following schools:

Central Mass Special Education Collaborative, University Park Campus, The Challenge and reach Academy, North High, South High, Doherty High, Burncoat High, Creamer Building, Worcester Technical High, Worcester East Middle, Sullivan Middle, Forest Grove, and Burncoat Middle School.  Screening, referrals and sealants take place as well as children seen receive Oral Hygiene Education Instruction.

A story coming out from this site from the staff members is as follows:

Several years ago there was a child seen that needed multiple extractions. The teeth were broken, decayed and infected. He was aware of it but was petrified of the dentist, needles and extractions! After several conversations with the patient and the patients’ mother we were able to get him an appointment with a dentist. My fear was that he would not show to his appointment so I asked him if it was “ok” if I came to the appointment with him.  He agreed and fortunately the dentist allowed me to be in the room with him to help him through this procedure. In the end he did just fine and found (hopefully) a renewed sense of self-esteem with regards to his oral health.

Other sites that assist  students in the Worcester area are the Family Health Center and the Edward Kennedy Center.

Schools receiving services by Family Health Center through their School Based Health Center are Woodland Academy and Goddard Elementary School.

Schools receiving services by the Edward Kennedy Center are Norrback and Roosevelt Elementary Schools.

The visits include Exam, Dental Cleaning, Fluoride varnish and sealants and all students seen receive Oral Hygiene Education instruction.

Just like the other sites these could also give some heartwarming stories about how the children appreciated their care and how it helped them stay in school. Let’s continue with the theme in this community …“Healthier Students, Better Learners.”


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