VISTA — A school auditorium stage is not the place you would expect to find a dental clinic, but for one week that was exactly where 270 Foothill Oak Elementary students had their dental work done.
Vista Community Clinic is partnering with Vista Unified School District to bring dental services into schools.
The clinic’s A+ Dental Screening Program sets up a mobile dental service area within a school, and performs dental exams and applies fluoride varnish on all students with parental permission. Students are seen whether they have dental insurance or not.
Each student is sent home with a dental report card that informs parents of needed follow up.
The dental team stays on site to follow up and apply sealants to students’ molars as needed. Sealant fills in grooves in the tooth where food can get caught and start decay.
“We are able to identify potential dental problems early and apply preventative sealants to permanent molars to protect them from decay,” Dr. Rebecca Cornille, Vista Community Clinic dental director, said. “We can seal first molars as soon as 6 years old.”
Dental exams on students go rather quickly.
Applying sealant can take half an hour per student. Servicing hundreds of students at a school site can take a week or more.
“It’s such a wonderful service to our families,” Dr. Erin English, prinicipal of Foothill Oak Elementary, said. “We’re so impressed with how it ran. That many kids being serviced and not one hiccup.”
“The staff was gracious and sensitive to our population.
“This will be a program that I hope will become part of what we do every year.”
There is also a clinic staff member who follows up with families to help them apply for medical insurance and schedule next dental appointments.
“Everybody should see a dentist every six months,” Cornille said. “This is not in place of a regular dental exam.”
“This is a great way to connect children who might not have a dentist with a dental home so that they can receive comprehensive dental care on a regular basis.”
The outreach program educates students and parents on dental care and clinic services.
The program targets schools with low-income families. The goal is to bridge families with services.
Six elementary schools were selected for the spring semester.
There is a greater need and services will continue next fall and include Oceanside schools.
“We’re trying to schedule as many schools as we can through the calendar year,” Cornille said.
Students’ dental health is important to ensure their attendance and optimal performance in school.
“Good dental health begins with education and what a perfect setting to reach out to those in our community who need us the most,” Cornille said. “Decay and dental pain are the No. 1 cause of school absences. We try to see patients before there are any issues.”
This year’s dental program at Vista Unified School District was funded by a school district grant and matching funds from the clinic.