One of United Way of Southeastern Idaho’s innovative education projects focuses on a primary cause of school absenteeism and underperformance—dental pain caused by tooth decay. Licensed dental hygienists and dentists from the ISU Dental Residency program perform free dental screenings and cleanings, apply sealants and fluoride varnishes and refer children with active tooth decay to a free clinic funded by United Way or a partner dentist. They also provide oral health education. Students benefiting are primarily low-income and living in rural SE Idaho. Other project partners are the Idaho Community Foundation and Southeastern Idaho Public Health.
Oral health has a tremendous effect on daily academic functioning. Oral diseases can lead to severe pain, reduced concentration, difficulty speaking, poor eating habits and lower self-esteem. A recent survey showed nearly 17% of 3rd graders in SE Idaho have active tooth decay, even more among low-income families & Hispanic/Latino children. Dental sealants reduce tooth decay by more than 70% in children, enabling us to make great gains in childhood health and education.
This past year, project partners provided 1,003 dental assessments, 143 dental prophylaxis (cleanings), 143 fluoride varnish treatments, 705 dental sealants, and 129 referrals to pro bono dentists for one or more teeth with active decay—all in Bingham and Caribou county elementary and middle schools.
In the current year, the project will provide approximately 1,100 free initial dental assessments, 225 free dental prophylaxis, 225 free fluoride varnishes, and free dental sealants to at least 225 students at elementary and middle schools in Soda Springs Joint School District #150 in Soda Springs, Idaho, and Shelley Joint School District #60 in Shelley, Idaho. The breakdown of the 1,461 students is as follows:
Tigert Middle School 256 students
Thirkill Elementary 337 students
Stuart Elementary 307 students
Riverview Elementary 361 students
Sunrise Elementary 200 students