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WE Collaborate: Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center Dental Sealant Program

A machine hums and the familiar sound of dental suction echoes into the hallway. Inside the room, dental hygienists are busy examining children and applying dental sealants as needed. "Can you open your mouth nice and wide for me," says one hygienist to a young boy.

This is not a dentist's office. This is an empty classroom at Barnes Elementary School. For three days in November, it was transformed into a makeshift dental office by Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center (VGMHC). "Dental pain can absolutely have an adverse effect on a child's education. Children in pain cannot focus on classwork and learn," says BSD School Nurse Kim Bartholomew.

Dental sealants are a little bit of resin that covers up the vulnerable areas of the tooth. They prevent food from getting stuck in those creases and reduce the number of cavities by up to 90%. VGMHC's program is mainly funded through a grant and is certified by the Oregon Health Authority.

This year, the health center is providing sealants at 19 schools in the Beaverton School District, all of which have free and reduced lunch rates at 40% or higher. "We want to provide care to vulnerable populations. These are families that, for a number of different reasons, traditionally have a hard time making it to the dentist's office," says Kyle Allen, School Based Dental Manager for VGMHC. At the beginning of the school year, a consent form is sent home to parents. The students with parental consent are then examined to determine the health of their teeth and whether they need sealants.

While VGMHC provided the program to 21 schools across five different school districts last year, this year the organization wanted to focus on one school district. Allen says Beaverton was a natural choice. "We have a great relationship with Beaverton, with our School Based Health Center, and I think that was one of the main reasons we partnered with Beaverton this year."

The organization works closely with BSD principals and school nurses to determine how best to communicate with parents about the program, as well as schedule the visits. "We have already had thousands of students seen by dental specialists, students who most likely would not receive these services without the collaboration between the BSD and the Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center," says BSD Executive Administrator Matt Casteel.