Dental decay is the most common chronic disease among children, and Dallas Independent School District officials say dental problems are the leading reason why children miss school. A child’s chances of existing dental problems, however, are tripled if the family has no dental insurance.

In response to this need, Texas A&M College of Dentistry and its community partners received funds from the Dallas-based Crystal Charity Ball for the Southeast Oral Health Project. The project’s goal is to essentially adopt the community and is projected to improve the oral health of 10,000 children with a comprehensive, four-pronged approach: screening, prevention, referral and treatment.

The project starts exactly where it can reach the most children: at school. Dentists and College of Dentistry students will annually visit schools in Pleasant Grove to provide oral health screenings, oral health education and oral hygiene kits to every student. It is estimated this alone will serve 10,000 children annually.

Each second-grader receives free sealants to minimize tooth decay for several years, courtesy of the college’s sealant program, led by Dr. Stephen Crane, assistant professor in public health sciences, and staffed by D4 students.

Children who need additional care, an estimated 1,800 of them, will be referred for treatment at the new Southeast Dental Clinic, located within their own neighborhood. It is this final component that will help meet the area’s tremendous need for a public dental clinic.