Bulletin of Dental Education

Creating Smiles in a Louisiana Community

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In March 2006, the Riser Elementary and Middle School in West Monroe, LA, partnered with the University of Louisiana at Monroe (ULM) Dental Hygiene Program to found the Riser School Based Dental Hygiene Clinic. The clinic was founded with a grant from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation and in association with the Glenwood School Based Health Clinic. The Riser School is located in an underserved area in the West Monroe community where over 80% of the students are eligible for Medicaid and the free or reduced-rate lunch program.
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Initial funding paid for the renovation of a school building and the purchase of equipment and supplies. Three dental hygiene operatories and one x-ray operatory with a panorex machine are in use at the clinic. Since 2009, the Living Well Foundation has awarded the necessary funds for project supplies and supervision to operate the clinic.  

The 2015 fall semester marks the 10th year of the partnership between ULM and the Riser School. Approximately 30 ULM Dental Hygiene students, supervised by a licensed dental hygienist, provide preventive dental services the equivalent of two days a week throughout the academic year. In the past eight years there have been more than 2,500 dental visits to the clinic by children ages 4–16 years. Services include x-rays, fluoride treatments, prophylaxis, sealants, nutritional counseling and oral health education. 

A visit to the clinic is an opportunity to change patients’ views of dentistry. Many students have significant tooth decay and oral disease and only visit the dentist when something hurts. This results in poor experiences and a reluctance to visit the dentist in the future. The services offered at the school-based clinic meet a significant need as most of the children have limited access to routine health care and may not understand the importance of good oral hygiene. In addition to seeing patients in the clinic, the ULM Dental Hygiene students go into the classrooms and provide oral health education to students and their families. 

The goal of this program is to provide a positive environment focusing on individual patients, addressing their oral health issues and showing them how to prevent dental disease. Each student leaves with a goodie bag filled with a toothbrush, toothpaste, floss and a prize chosen from a treasure chest. For some students, this is the first toothbrush they have received for their personal use, and some ask for extras for their siblings or parents. 

Published on October 14, 2015.
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