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The tooth fairy next door

The National Charity League of Richardson helps with the Summer Tooth Fairy Project Volunteers for the summer Tooth Fairy Project, such as these members of the National Charity League of Richardson, loaded mailing bins stuffed with oral hygiene kits into the trunks of their cars and toted them to select locations around Richardson to distribute to school children.

Richardson ISD school kids receive help from two BCD alumni with summer oral health initiative

Typically, the Tooth Fairy visits children in their sleep, tucking money, coins or other goodies under their pillows in exchange for that most recently lost tooth. This summer, the Tooth Fairy has taken the form of volunteer dental personnel armed with an arsenal of oral hygiene bags for the taking.

It's been just over 18 months since the Rotary Dental Clinic opened its doors to provide children in the Richardson school district free emergency dental care. Already Drs. Mark Denny ’85 and Doug Crosby ’81 have accomplished another goal: the summer Tooth Fairy Project.

Denny and Crosby played invaluable roles in starting the clinic, through partnering with the three Richardson rotary clubs, Network-Community Ministries and the Richardson Independent School District.

The dental clinic has two full operatories and is kept afloat with one paid director, a stream of nearly 30 volunteer dentists, as well as volunteer assistants and receptionists. 

Since the clinic runs in tandem with the school district, it shuts its doors for summer. For Denny and Crosby, who volunteer at the clinic every week, three months was too long to wait to provide services to children.

As a result, both alumni, along with help from their clinic partners and community donors, amassed enough dental hygiene kits to distribute to 5,000 kids all summer long. Each kit is valued at $1.25 and holds some of the hallmarks of preventive care: toothbrush, toothpaste, floss and a language-appropriate educational dental care packet.

“We’re really trying to increase public awareness and not only
treat these kids but also make an aggressive effort in preventive care.”

— Dr. Mark Denny '85

The Tooth Fairy Project targets economically disadvantaged children, who are two times less likely to receive dental care than their insured peers and the most likely patients to need the services of the Rotary Dental Clinic.

Since most of the children Denny sees need emergency dental care, it’s his hope that the Tooth Fairy Project kits will serve as just one step in the clinic’s shift toward preventive care and referrals.

“We’re really trying to increase public awareness and not only treat these kids but also make an aggressive effort in preventive care,” says Denny. “There’s a lot of need in that area.”

Texas A&M Health Science Center Baylor College of Dentistry also has its stamp on the clinic, which opened in January 2010. Dr. Michael Ellis, associate professor and director of residency training in the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, worked with vendors KLS-Martin USA and BIOMET 3i to get each of them to donate more than $2,500 worth of surgical equipment. Leeanna Bartlett, assistant professor in public health sciences and director of social services, sought out student recruits to help with the clinic’s annual Dentistry with a Heart Day, which provides approximately 100 children with much-needed dental care.

So far, Denny says the Rotary Dental Clinic is primarily geared toward emergency cases, but he plans to evolve the clinic’s services as funds become available. Denny’s vision is to provide complete dental care to struggling children. To do so, referrals to outside dentists will be necessary.

“We have to get dentists who will be willing to have a patient referred,” Denny says. It’s something he says he sees more and more with recent graduates.

“I’m excited because the younger generation professionals are coming out of school with community service interest. I think that’s a great reflection on Baylor,” Denny says.

The Rotary Dental Clinic is looking for dentists willing to take referrals for the 2011-2012 school year. Any interested parties can contact Denny at RootCanalU2@aol.com or Crosby at crosbyfive@aol.com.