Dozens of underserved children got their back-to-school smiles ready at a dental check-up event held Aug. 14 at the LSU Health New Orleans After-Hours Pediatric Dental Clinic, sponsored by Healthy Smiles, Healthy Children (HSHC): The Foundation of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.
Dental and dental hygiene students from the LSU School of Dentistry volunteered their time to provide professional services, and enjoy some fun and games with patients and their families. The children—many of whom would otherwise not be able to access dental care—received free dental exams and cleanings, learned about proper oral care, and left with a backpack filled with school supplies, which was provided by MCNA (Managed Care of North America, Inc.).
Getting an annual back-to-school dental checkup is often out of reach for marginalized children in Louisiana, and across the country, according to LSU Health. “Many who can’t afford dental care simply go without, and this can have a negative impact on school performance,” said Janice Townsend, DDS, MS, Associate Professor and Chair of Pediatric Dentistry at LSU Health New Orleans. “Children with poor oral health miss more days of school, have difficulty concentrating, and often have trouble socializing. LSU Health New Orleans and HSHC share a common goal of finding ways to increase access to care so more children realize the benefits of good oral health.”
Despite the fact that dental disease is preventable, tooth decay is increasing, and has become epidemic among the youngest children in the United States. Children among low-income and minority families have a higher incidence of oral health issues.
Financial, time, and other constraints limit access to care. Many low-income families do not have dental insurance, or money to pay for dental visits. In addition, many working parents are unable to take time off during the day to take their children to the dentist.
LSU Health New Orleans School of Dentistry has found innovative ways to break down barriers to dental care for underserved children. The after-hours clinic is one of those ways, according to HSHC President Dr. Neophytos L. Savide.
“We are honored to work with LSU Health New Orleans and the After-Hours Pediatric Dental Clinic to help children get started on a great school year, and lifetime of opportunity,” said Savide.
LSU Health New Orleans After-hours Pediatric Dental Clinic opened in 2016 with support from a grant from HSHC. Dental students and pediatric dental residents, under faculty supervision, treat children and adolescents by appointment in the clinic on the LSU Health New Orleans School of Dentistry campus, 1100 Florida Avenue.
Services include examinations, x-rays, cleanings, and sealants, as well as restorative services (fillings, crowns, pulp therapy, and space maintenance) and extractions. The clinic is open two evenings a month, from 5 - 8 p.m., and one Saturday per month, from 8 a.m. - 12 p.m. Appointments can be made by calling (504) 941-8201. The clinic will accept Medicaid and LaCHIP; and others can benefit from the discounted care under the school’s student fee schedule.