by Terri Newburn

How one practice helps local kids stay healthy

Understanding the need for dental care in the Antelope Valley, Snow Orthodontics  (the office of Gilbert H. Snow, DDS) approached the Antelope Valley School District to survey the severity of the problem. Statistics showed poor oral health occurring among our young children, and we felt a strong need to do our part in educating and providing good oral-health tips. We found it imperative to reach out to the children in our community to arrest this “silent” disease. The critical need for these services became apparent when we visited the Antelope Valley schools and discovered that more than 10% of the children examined had never seen a dentist; 20% had not seen a dentist in more than a year; and a high percentage of the children we saw needed extensive dental treatment. Research has shown that tooth decay is the most common disease among children in the United States.1 Poor oral health is the No 1 reason for absence in our schools, and it keeps kids out of school far more often than other medical problems like allergies or asthma.

It was our goal to reach out and help educate parents and children through free school screenings and written feedback to the parents. We continue to stay involved with activities related to children in the community, through programs like festivals, health fairs, and kindergarten awareness programs.

A Clinic for Those in Need
Snow also founded the free dental clinic for our children in the Antelope Valley known as the Hi Desert Children’s Dental Clinic. Since its incorporation in 1986, the clinic has provided free dental care to children (ages 5 to 17) from low-income families with no insurance. Lack of dental coverage is the No 1 reason our children do not receive care for this disease. Because of this, 50% of children have visible decay by age 8, and 50% of those children are not treated. We have found that 25% of low-income kindergarten children have never had dental care. Treatment for oral-health problems has become a problem for many families. Snow’s philosophy and slogan for the clinic is that, “No child in the Antelope Valley will go without dental care.”

Through free dental screenings and referrals from community organizations and school nurses, the clinic is able to arrange treatment for these children. If a child qualifies under the guidelines set by the State of California HLD Index for Medi-Cal, the clinic coordinator arranges for the child to be seen by a dentist in a private dental office, with no charge for the visit or the treatment provided. If a family does not qualify for services by other dental programs such as Medi-Cal, Healthy Families, or Healthy Kids, then we will assist them in applying for our Hi Desert Children’s Dental Clinic program. The Hi Desert Children’s Dental Clinic not only helps children with direct dental services, but also acts as a referral source for information about other dental programs available. Our clinic treats approximately 150 children per year in the Antelope Valley.

Snow and his assistants have been extremely successful in reaching out to the children and their families through free school screenings. Our wonderful adventure with school screenings this year began in February (Dental Health Awareness Month) and was completed during the first week of June. Our target is fourth-grade classrooms, since by this age most of the kids’ baby teeth are gone. This year, we were able to visit approximately 30 schools, examining more than 3,000 students.

Our purpose is solely to provide the schools, students, and families with information regarding the status of each student’s oral-health practices. Before screening, a consent form is sent home asking if screening would be appropriate for the child. All documentation of what we find for each student is given directly to the school’s health clerk. The health clerk, in turn, sends the information home to the parents or guardians. Brochures for Hi Desert Children’s Dental Clinic and posters are also provided.

The participating dentists in the Antelope Valley are ready, willing, and able to offer their help to those children and their family members from the ages of 5 to 17 on behalf of the Hi Desert Children’s Dental Clinic. The clinic reimburses dentists $50 to $100 per visit just to help cover materials, but several dentists refuse the payment.

Snow Orthodontics is highly committed to delivering the best possible care in the Antelope Valley. It is that commitment that makes us successful, both individually and in our service to the community. Our team strives to be remembered for our dedication to the health of the children in our valley. We take pride in our achievements and try to touch as many community members as we possibly can.

Terri Newburn is the community relations officer at Snow Orthodontics in the Antelope Valley, Calif. She can be reached at [email protected].

1. Cortez S, Reggiardo PA. Oral health assessment for California schoolchildren: are organized dentistry and the California legislature receptive to the concept? J Calif Dent Assoc. 2006;34(1):41–43.