By Debbie Hall
A Team Effort to Provide Oral Health Care to ChildrenFuture Smiles, a Nevada nonprofit agency, was established in 2009 to increase oral health care for children. Through a school-based system, an approach has been created that removes barriers of no transportation, lost income and lost time from school. Future Smiles’ ultimate goal is to instill positive oral health behavior for a lifetime.
It takes a dedicated team to reach that goal and Stephanie Redwine, BS, RDH, is one of the Future Smiles co-founders and dental hygiene director. Redwine, who has been working in public health since 2005, stated, “I love working with the kids and helping them through their dental fears. It is gratifying to see the difference you are making in a family’s life.”
Christina A. Demopoulos, D.D.S., M.P.H. is the dental director for Future Smiles; State Dental Director of the Bureau of Child, Family and Community Wellness, Nevada State Health Division; Assistant Professor, Clinical Sciences at the UNLV School of Dental Medicine, and Seal Nevada South. As for her role in public health, she said, “I began working with the UNLV School of Dental Medicine in 2001, at which point I was able to travel the state offering tobacco education and oral cancer screenings through the use of mobile dental clinics. I saw first-hand the need of the community and what I could do to help.
Currently, I administer a school-based sealant program (Seal Nevada South) for at-risk children. Through the collaborative efforts of Future Smiles and Seal Nevada South, we are able to provide preventive services to at-risk children in Clark County.”
While there are many factors involved with children not receiving dental care, Redwine explains, “Many kids don’t get the care they need due to fear. One child I treated began shaking the minute I brought her into the room. Being in public health allows us the time we need to help a child through their fears. We don’t have appointment time limitations as we do in private practice. I was able to help this child relax and accept treatment. By the end of the time together I was able to place four sealants on her permanent molars and received a hug as she left.”
“I have visited every county in Nevada, but each time you see a small child with cavities, it is heartbreaking,” said Dr. Demopoulos, “Once, two parents came in, said they were new to the area and their daughter has recently enrolled at the school. She had extensive decay and several teeth with infections. (The parent) had indicated that they had no insurance. I told her about the Saturday Children’s Clinic at the UNLV School of Dental Medicine that offers free dental treatment for children with no insurance. We have now finished the daughter’s treatment at no cost to the family. I am just pleased that we have established great community collaborations to be able to get the kids treated quickly and efficiently.”
In January, The Nevada State Health Division presented Dr. Demopoulos the 2013 Silver ACE Award Achieving Chronic Disease Prevention Excellence, Outstanding Surveillance/Data (Community) for Seal Nevada South. Terri Chandler, RDH, founder and executive director of Future Smiles, was awarded the 2013 Silver ACE Award Achieving Chronic Disease Prevention Excellence and Outstanding School Health Promotion for Future Smiles.
As for others can do, Redwine advises, “Providers can help by accepting a few of the children into their practice who do not have a dental home. Others can help by donating oral hygiene products or money to existing programs.”
“Despite the great work that Future Smiles and Seal Nevada South are doing, there is so much that needs to be done,” said Dr. Demopoulos, “The community can benefit from having oral health providers donate their time at a school- or community-based event. In addition, leveraging funds from public/private partnerships can further expand the efforts of the programs.”
For more information, visit futuresmiles.net.