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Record Online - March 2009

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Grant funds future Southeast Dental Clinic

Crystal Charity Ball - PatientChildren in Southeast Dallas will soon get a tremendous improvement in their oral health care, thanks to funding coming to Texas A&M Health Science Center Baylor College of Dentistry from the Crystal Charity Ball.

HSC-BCD and its community partners will receive $500,000 for the Southeast Oral Health Project, announced in February by the Dallas-based Crystal Charity Ball Committee.

The project’s goal is to essentially “adopt the community,” says Dr. Daniel Jones, professor and chair of public health sciences at HSC-BCD. It is projected to improve the oral health of 10,000 children with a comprehensive, four-pronged approach: screening, prevention, referral and treatment.

The project will start exactly where it can reach the most children: at school. Dentists and HSC-BCD students will annually visit schools in Pleasant Grove to provide oral health screenings, oral health education and oral hygiene kits to every student. It is estimated this alone will serve 10,000 children annually.

For second-graders, they’ll also receive an invaluable preventative tool. Each student will receive free sealants to minimize tooth decay for several years, courtesy of HSC-BCD’s sealant program, led by Dr. Stephen Crane, assistant professor in public health sciences, and staffed by D4 students. 

Children who need additional care, an estimated 1,800 of them, will be referred for treatment at the new Southeast Dental Clinic, located within their own neighborhood. It is this final component that will help meet the area’s tremendous need for a public dental clinic.

Dental decay is the most common chronic disease among children, and Dallas Independent School District officials say dental problems are the leading reason why children miss school. A child’s chances of existing dental problems, however, are tripled if the family has no dental insurance.

 

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Currently no options exist in Pleasant Grove for the uninsured to get dental treatment. In an area with no rapid transit and an average per capita income less than half the Dallas average, the barriers to access dental care can be insurmountable.

This acute need has been recognized before. The 2007 Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council report, “Our Community Health Checkup,” specifically recommends dental services for the uninsured in Southeast Dallas.

But that will soon change. After the grant funding arrives in February 2010, the dental clinic is scheduled to open in September that same year.

The project is one of team effort. Jones, along with Dr. K. Vendrell Rankin, professor and associate chair in public health sciences, and Susan Mitchell Jackson, director of communications and institutional advancement, collaborated on the project within HSC-BCD.

The college pooled its resources with Community Dental Care, the Baylor Oral Health Foundation, Parkland Health and Hospital System, the city of Dallas, and DISD to propose the project to the Crystal Charity Ball for funding. The Crystal Charity Ball has raised funds to improve the lives of Dallas-area children since 1952. It has twice before funded HSC-BCD public health projects: the Dallas County Sealant Initiative in 1999 and the Vickery Meadow Children’s Oral Health Project in 2005.

“With the Southeast Oral Health Project, we’re building on lessons learned,” Jones says. “The Vickery Meadow project is a proven, sustainable model that we’ll use and improve in Pleasant Grove.”

Annually, the Southeast project will provide an estimated 16,000 dental appointments and interactions with children. Within two years it will be completely self-sustaining.