For a 12th year, the Norman Regional Health System, the Norman Regional Health Foundation, Norman Public Schools, Delta Dental of Oklahoma Foundation, the University of Oklahoma College of Dentistry, Moore Norman Technology Center and the Oklahoma State Department of Health have partnered to identify and treat almost 200 children who are in the most need of dental care through the Little Smiles program.
The Little Smiles program was made possible through a $6,000 grant provided by Delta Dental of Oklahoma Foundation through the Norman Regional Health Foundation. The first treatment date this year was Sept.17 inside MNTC’s Dental Assisting career program lab, with dates scheduled through March 2020.
The grant was expanded two years ago allowing children from all NPS schools to receive oral care, along with an increase in the number of days for treatment. During the 2018-19 school year, partners worked 20 half days and had 196 student visits. Of those, 85 began restorative treatment and 49 were able to complete their treatment. The dollar amount saved for families through the Little Smiles program last year exceeded $45,000.
Pediatric dentists who oversee the OU senior dental students are Dr. Tim Fagan, Dr. Kevin Haney, Dr. Becky King of OU COD and Dr. Amanda Ward of Norman Pediatric Dentistry.
Executive Director of NRHF Erin Barnhart said,
The goal of this program is to reach children that may otherwise never see a dentist. Norman Public Schools does an incredible job of identifying children who are candidates for dental cleanings, sealants and more extensive work. If we can take the dental pain away from one child or help one child understand the importance of oral health, then this program is a success.
Students at each elementary school in Norman receive a basic oral screening to identify visually-obvious dental needs. Recommendations then go home with children indicating either normal, dental care needed, or that urgent dental care is needed. Based on these results children are identified as in need of either preventative or restorative care.
NPS Health Services Coordinator Beth Roberson, NRHF Donor Relations Specialist Emily Bendick, NRHS Director of Planning and Communication Kelly Wells and MNTC Dental Assisting Instructor Bridgette Cannon worked together to solidify the grant, personnel, supplies and logistics to make the treatment days run smoothly for the children.
We are so fortunate to be in a community that values innovative partnerships. This collaboration supports our goal to provide equitable health services and access to extensive dental care for children who need it most.
Every Tuesday morning during the fall semester and every Wednesday morning in spring, OU COD sends down six-to-eight senior dental students who perform the treatments that each child needs while supervised by an OU COD pediatric dentist. MNTC provides the dental-care setting complete with industry-standard dental office tools, chairs, overhead lighting. Delta Dental provides grant money to pay for the materials and supplies for patient care during the treatment days. Clinical Instructor Assistant Whitney West oversees the clinic and Moore Norman students who clean and disinfect the treatment rooms and instruments. As they progress in their curriculum, they gain experience assisting OU’s dental students, they take x-rays, perform coronal polishing and place sealants.
Cannon said, “It is a win-win for everyone. OU’s dental students gain in-depth experience working on children; Moore Norman’s Dental Assisting students get to work chairside with a dentist in their home-clinical environment. Most of all, Norman’s schoolchildren learn about dental health and receive dental treatment at no cost to their families.”
Details about the Norman Regional Health Foundation may be found at nrhfoundation.org. Information about the Delta Dental Oral Health Foundation may be found at ddokfoundation.org. Learn about MNTC’s Dental Assisting program at mntc.edu or call 405-801-5000.