Dental clinic help break down barriers for students

Health

CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – Dental health is an important part of keeping children at their best in the classroom and at home. But for some, there are obstacles in the way when it comes to access.

The Kanawha County Dental Health Council works with Kanawha County Schools to make sure every child has access to dental care and education.

“The mouth is part of the body and we want them to feel good about themselves,”said Lead School Dental Hygienist Toma Young.

The Kanawha County Dental Council provides standard services for children of low income families who don’t have a private dentist.

“These are children who sometimes do not qualify for Medicaid, do not qualify for the CHIP program, do not have a dental home that they can get to or don’t have the transportation to get to the care that they need,” explained Executive Director Dr. Michelle Paterno.

They have clinics at five different Kanawha County Schools with the main location at Mary C. Snow West Side Elementary.

“We could not do what we do without that relationship,” Paterno said.

With a parent’s permission, the school system helps tear down barriers by providing transportation. Those involved said it helps more students stay healthy and helps them in the classroom.

“If you have a child that has to go to the dentist, they usually miss at least a half a day of school, if not a full day,” said Young. “But when they are in the school and we can pull them they may be out a half hour or 45 minutes. It makes a difference as far as school time.”

COVID-19 has slowed their efforts over the past year but the need is there more than ever, not just for care but also oral health education.

“When I started 38 years ago there was a need but I think now we have a greater need,” explained Young. “A lot of it is the economics in the state. A lot of it is diet, there’s a lot of refined sugar.”

For more information on the programs and to find out if your child qualifies click here or call 304-348-6613.

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