February is a time for groundhog shadows, Girl Scout cookies, and Valentine treats. It is also a time to raise awareness about the importance of oral health through National Children’s Dental Health Month.
Since 2008, Cass Community Health Foundation (CCHF) provides dental screenings, oral health education, fluoride varnish treatments, and dental supplies to students in local schools to celebrate National Children’s Health Month.
The program began as screenings for third graders in the Belton, Grandview, and Raymore-Peculiar school districts each February. Over the past 12 years, it has grown into an annual effort that serves nearly 5,000 students in 11 school districts from September through March.
During the 2018-2019 school year, 130 volunteers helped screen 4,885 students in grades pre-K – 12 throughout Cass County and Grandview. Just fewer than 3,000 students received free preventive fluoride varnish treatments through this program, which is a partnership between Cass Community Health Foundation, local school districts, and the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services Preventive Services Program.
Partnerships are the key to this program’s success. School nurses are instrumental in scheduling the program, collecting and organizing consent forms, and calling the guardians of any student who has an urgent dental need on the day of the screening.
Local dental offices and civic organizations, the dental hygiene programs at both University of Missouri Kansas City (UMKC) School of Dentistry and Concorde Career College, Pinnacle Career College’s dental assisting program, UMKC’s pre-dental society, and community members partner with CCHF to provide the volunteer workforce necessary to bring oral health services into 31 schools and two Head Start programs annually.
Overall during the 2018-2019 school year, 23 percent of students screened had untreated tooth decay, or cavities. Following the dental screenings, school nurses complete follow-up phone calls for students who have private dental insurance. CCHF’s Cass County Dental Clinic completes followup for students who are insured by Missouri Medicaid or who do not have dental insurance to help them establish a dental home at Cass County Dental Clinic (CCDC).
CCDC, with locations in both Belton and Harrisonville, provides comprehensive dental care to children and teens from birth through age 20 who are insured by Missouri Medicaid or who are uninsured and low-income. In 2019, CCDC provided dental care to 3,320 eligible patients through 5,733 dental visits. Ninety-seven percent of children treated were insured by Missouri Medicaid while the remaining 3 percent were uninsured and low-income (at or below 200 percent FPL).
For Cass Community Health Foundation and Cass County Dental Clinic, raising awareness about the importance of Children’s Dental Health is a year-round priority!