Two groups of students will teach each other good dental hygiene this school year, thanks to a mobile dental clinic.
Students from The Ohio State University’s College of Dentistry will provide Columbus City School district students with basic dental treatment onboard the college’s Health Outreach Mobile Experience (HOME) Coach.
The HOME Coach is sponsored by the Delta Dental Foundation, a nonprofit charitable organization established in 1980 by Delta Dental of Michigan, now Delta Dental of Michigan, Ohio and Indiana. Goals of the foundation include supporting education and research for the advancement of dental science, as well as promoting oral health through service and education.
Ohio State officials and representatives of the Delta Dental Foundation kicked-off the beginning of the school year and the partnership between the foundation and the university Aug. 27.
Two dozen Weinland Park Elementary School children were treated as part of the celebration. The partnership is expected to last three years or more.
According to Rachel Vansickle, program coordinator for the College of Dentistry’s OHIO Project, which manages the dental HOME Coach, third- and fourth- year dental students, College of Dentistry faculty and pediatric residents from Nationwide Children’s Hospital will provide treatment of district students ages 6 through 18.
"The staff provides restorative treatment to include x-rays, extractions, fillings, sealants and cleanings," Vansickle said.
College of Dentistry students will regularly be scheduled on the coach, Vansickle said, and receive a class credit for participation.
"Students also have opportunities to volunteer their time during OSU scheduled breaks," she added.
The coach, according to Vansickle, is equipped with many dental operations and characteristics. It has a laboratory area, which includes an autoclave and ultrasonic cleaner of instrument sterilization. It also has a wheelchair lift and a variety of built-in safety features. The coach, which is more than 40 feet long, has a three-patient waiting area, equipped with ceiling-mounted television monitors for relaxation, education and entertainment.
Throughout the school year, the coach will visit an assigned school four-and-a-half days each week, except on district breaks, Vansickle said.
"We hope that eventually the Dental HOME Coach will have visited all elementary schools," she said.
The College of Dentistry’s partnership with the mobile clinic stemmed from statistics on poor dental health in children, Vansickle said.
"Access to dental care is the number one unmet health need in Ohio, according to a study by the Ohio Department of Health," she said. "When we see this statistic, we realize that the most vulnerable of our community – our children – are suffering."
The access to dental health care is often denied due to insurance issues, Vansickle said, especially as very few dental offices accept Medicaid or public insurance.
"There is a great need for more dental health professionals to accept public insurance," Vansickle said. "For many families with limited incomes, dental health care takes a back seat to other priorities. By bringing the Dental HOME Coach to the children at local schools, more care is provided to children in need."
Superintendent Gene Harris attended the kick-off event, and was "absolutely impressed" with the mobile clinic. The effects of poor dental health care can trickle down to education, she said.
"This is a great opportunity," she said. "We know that if dental health is good, general health is much better. And when physical health is good, it impacts the overall educational learning."