Irving ISD and Texas A&M Team to Offer Innovative Program 

 Students from Texas A&M College of Dentistry, Nida Suleman (left) and Shahriar Soroushi (right) provides a third grader free sealants in the library of Thomas Haley Elementary, in Irving. (Photo: Rachel Hawkins/North Dallas Gazette)
Students from Texas A&M College of Dentistry, Nida Suleman (left) and Shahriar Soroushi (right) provides a third grader free sealants in the library of Thomas Haley Elementary, in Irving. (Photo: Rachel Hawkins/North Dallas Gazette)

By Rachel Hawkins, NDG Staff Writer

In 2014, the American Dental Association (ADA) reported 64.6 percent of children under 18, visited the dentist every six months, 20.3 percent once per year, and 4.4 percent once every two to three years. 10.7 percent of parents said their children had not visited the dentist in the last few years.

As a result, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found the percentage of children and adolescents aged 5 to 19 years with untreated tooth decay is twice as high for those from low-income families (25 percent) compared with children from higher-income households (11 percent). 

Many parents are unable to take their children to the dentist because of no insurance to cover the extremely high rates, or their inability to find a suitable location. Therefore, their children are unfortunately forced to deal with the pains of cavities, tooth decay, and gum disease. But fortunately, many institutions are trying to change this.

On Sept. 24, the Irving Independent School District (Irving ISD) renewed item 10 on their agenda: Consider Approval of Interlocal Agreement between Texas A&M University Health Science Center (TAMHSC) and Irving Independent School District for Student Dental Services. The program will start on Oct. 9. 

The continuing partnership between Irving ISD and TAMHSC will offer a free dental exam and free dental sealants to children in third grade. The goal of the program is to place sealants on a child’s adult molars, apply a fluoride treatment to all teeth and identify existing problems that may need to be addressed by a local dentist.   

This program was created by the Texas A&M College of Dentistry in 2016. 

The dental services are provided by third-year dental students under the direct supervision of a certified dentist. The treatment is pain-free, and the students are excited to participate. When finished, the patients will receive a “goodie bag” containing a toothbrush, mini toothpaste, and dental floss.

“The program is open to third graders as this is when the child should have their adult molars,” Karyn Beauchamp, RN, Director of Clinic and Health Services for Irving ISD said. “The school nurse sends home a consent form, and if the parent would like their child to participate, they sign the consent form.”  

The College of Dentistry provides the district with the dates of when the college is available to come to the campuses, and Beauchamp will work individually with the campuses to select those that want to participate throughout the district. 

“We are in our second year of the program,” Beauchamp said. “This year we have already provided dental services to 144 students at four schools, and we are scheduled to visit five more schools by the end of November.  At the four schools, we’ve already visited, 29 of the students have been identified as needing immediate additional treatment. In the 2017 school year, 405 students received dental care at 10 schools, with 78 students referred for additional dental care. The parents are very appreciative as they want to prevent dental problems for their child.”

The objective is to provide opportunities for families to have access to dental care. When students understand the importance of taking care of their teeth, they avoid dental pain and live healthier lives.

“Many students have never visited a dentist, and they do have tooth decay and pain,” Beauchamp said. “Some student miss days of school due to infection and potential extraction of teeth as a result. After the visit, many students are recommended for immediate additional treatment, and they are encouraged to see their community dental provider, or they are given information about the Texas A&M College of Dentistry clinic, where they may receive additional low-cost treatment if needed.”

Many healthcare plans do not include dental care, and many families must choose between one or the other. 

“We teach dental care and the importance of dental hygiene to all students,” Beauchamp said “This program allows us to offer a free service for parents to understand the importance of dental care for their child and how protecting your teeth and preventing dental decay helps to lead a healthier life.  We have many children who have not received dental care, and this program identifies dental problems early. This helps the financial burden placed on families who do not have dental insurance by providing necessary prevention of dental decay with the placing of the sealants on the child’s molars. As the child ages, the propensity for dental problems decreases.”