22 Aug The Regional Tooth Fairy
by Lauren G. Schmidt, Health Education Program Consultant, Florida Department of Health in Charlotte County
Charlotte County children suffer unnecessary dental complications due to limited dental treatment options for the under or uninsured; lack of public water fluoridation; limited community preventative dental services; and limited education regarding the value of preventive oral health services.
The Tooth Fairy visited the Florida Department of Health in Charlotte County (DOH-Charlotte) with a grant from the Southwest Florida Community Foundation to expand the department’s school-based dental sealant program. This evidence-based dental sealant program will continue to address the community’s need for access to preventative dental services at no cost, with timely application, convenience of service location and a referral to a dental home. The present program serves children in the 2nd and 4th grade in all ten Title 1 elementary schools. Expansion of this program will include Head Start students, Early Head Start students and children enrolled in the Women, Infant, and children’s program at the health department. By improving access to preventative dental services through community partnerships and use of cost effective resources we will increase community awareness of the short and long-term benefits of good oral hygiene.
Prior to the implementation of the school-based dental sealant program, the underserved groups of low income high risk children more often would end up in the emergency room (and sometimes hospital), only to receive cursory treatment for urgent care conditions—the dental equivalent of putting out fires instead of taking measures to prevent them. While this approach usually resolves the immediate medical problem, it overlooks the underlying reasons for the visit. So the cycle of neglect continues, possibly triggering or exacerbating other health conditions, often adding avoidable health care costs, and putting even more pressure on the already overburdened resources on the emergency rooms and hospitals in Charlotte County.
Dental sealants are clear or opaque plastic materials applied to the occlusal pit-and-fissure (biting) surfaces of teeth to prevent tooth decay. Sealants prevent initiation and arrest progression of tooth decay by providing a physical barrier against microorganisms and food particles that collect in the teeth.
Oral health is a smart investment and an essential component of a child’s overall well-being. Dental disease in children is preventable, but once it sets in, the disease can affect a child’s physical development in the form of reduced body weight and interference with growth. It can also affect a child’s school attendance and academic performance, leading to significant implications for a child’s social development and future success.
As public health professionals we have a responsibility to ensure that the children in our communities benefit from available resources which can ensure a healthy quality of life.
This summer, Florida Weekly has graciously allowed us, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, to spotlight the nonprofit organizations funded through the Foundation’s 2018 competitive grant cycle. We have asked these grantees to share their stories. We are pleased to partner with these change-makers.
About the Southwest Florida Community Foundation
The Southwest Florida Community Foundation, founded in 1976, cultivates regional change for the common good through collective leadership, social innovation and philanthropy to address the evolving community needs in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Foundation partners with individuals, families and corporations who have created more than 400 philanthropic funds. Thanks to them, the Foundation invested $5.4 million in grants and programs to the community. With assets of $115 million, it has provided more than $71 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves since inception. The Foundation is the backbone organization for the regional FutureMakers Coalition and Lee County’s Sustainability Plan. Currently, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation’s regional headquarters are located off College Parkway in South Fort Myers, with satellite offices located on Sanibel Island, in LaBelle (Hendry County) and downtown Fort Myers. For more information, call 239-274-5900 or visit www.floridacommunity.com