Conduct a survey of community needs, and access to dental care is likely to be high on the list. The need is especially acute in rural areas and low-income urban neighborhoods. The result often is that dental problems that are preventable and treatable — cavities, gum disease, chipped teeth and such — fester until pain makes it nearly impossible to do anything but seek relief. By then, the treatment is more involved and expensive. Which makes it a good idea to take dental care where children are: into the school.
A dental clinic opened this week at Oyler School in the Cincinnati Public School District. The clinic, which has three chairs, is open to students in the K-12 school and in neighboring schools. The clinic, which will have the capacity eventually to serve 1,300 students, will be staffed by a full-time dentist and other professionals, with volunteer dentists helping out. Fees for services will be assessed on a sliding scale. No students will be denied care.
The Oyler dental center is believed to be the only such facility located in an Ohio school. Untreated, dental problems can compromise health. Certainly, an aching tooth can be a serious distraction to learning, as hard to ignore as hunger.
Cincinnati has offered a model of collaboration, bringing together the school district, the city health department, the Dental Society’s Children’s Oral Health Foundation and Delta Dental Foundation to fill a gap in services for disadvantaged children. The concept is too promising for the clinic to remain a novelty operation in the state.