BELLINGHAM - As many as 100 low-income children will receive free preventive dental care during the annual Whatcom County Free Sealant Day on Saturday, Feb. 23.
Volunteers will provide the care at Interfaith Dental Clinic, 220 Unity St. with the goal of early prevention so kids don't grow up with dental problems that could affect their adult teeth.
"We do the exams, we do fluorides, we do X-rays. We do the sealants that can protect teeth from decay. It's definitely getting teeth that don't have decay and protecting those, and seeing what is needed for additional care," said Meagan Swanlund, dental access coordinator at Interfaith Community Health Center.
This year marks the ninth annual sealant day. The need remains.
"I would say that with the economy being pretty tough there's a lot of families that are struggling to be able to afford to bring them to a dentist," said Nona Groesbeck, a registered dental hygienist and president of Mount Baker Dental Hygienists Society, which is the event organizer.
Children who need more care, such as fillings or extractions, are connected with other dentists in the community who have volunteered to provide the care at no cost to the patients.
"It's a wonderful opportunity for us to give back to the community," Groesbeck said of volunteers. "We have some wonderful dentists who do follow-up work as well. It's everybody pitching in."
Tooth decay is one of childhood's most common diseases, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Surgeon General has indicated that sealants - plastic coatings applied to grooves on the chewing surfaces of back teeth - can cut tooth decay in schoolchildren by more than 70 percent.
Results of last year's sealant day were:
93 children were examined, with most receiving X-rays and fluoride treatments.
133 teeth had cavities.
104 teeth already had fillings.
249 sealants were applied.
40 children needed, and were connected with, follow-up appointments with a dentist.
Helping children with their oral health is important in other ways, according to Mary Jo Durborow, county coordinator for Whatcom Readiness to Learn, which is part of a statewide program that helps at-risk students stay in school by stabilizing their lives outside of school. The program also worked to get the word out to Whatcom County schools about sealant day.
"Trying to learn math with a toothache is pretty tough," Durborow said.
MAKE AN APPOINTMENT
Low-income children may receive dental care during the annual Whatcom County Free Sealant Day on Saturday, Feb. 23, at Interfaith Dental Clinic, 220 Unity St. in Bellingham.
Appointments are required for dental services, which will be offered 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
To schedule an appointment for a child, call 360-714-9010 and leave a message.
Services are for children 1 to 18 years old.