Getting an appointment and getting your kid to the dentist can be like pulling teeth. Then the bill can turn your smile upside down.
That may be why programs like Smile United are spreading across the state.
“Did you brush your teeth this morning?”
Second grader Alex Layton wasn’t nervous about this trip to the dentist.
“Open big for me…”
It was right down the hall from her classroom at Fort Braden School.
“How did it go?”
“It was good,” Layton said.
Second graders and sixth graders are getting free cleanings, sealants and fluoride as part of a program called Smile United.
“I think I’m going to start, like, brushing my teeth like every morning because it feel good – very good,” Mehki Gilyard said as he finished his treatment.
So far this year, Smile United has helped nearly 900 students at 15 Title One schools in Leon County.
“For some of these kids this is the first time they have ever even seen a dentist,” said Kimberly Reams, a hygienist with the Leon County Health Department. “It’s really exciting to be on the preventative end.”
“Parents don’t have to take off work whether these kids have insurance or not, they are all covered,” said the United Way’s R. Jai Gillum.
“If students are healthy, they are going to be better students,” Leon Schools Superintendent Jackie Pons said.
Smile United is a joint effort among the United Way, the Leon County Health Department and Leon County Schools.
“This is a shining star statewide,” said Dr. Ed Zapert, Executive Dental Director with Florida’s Department of Health. “Right now in Florida, there are 46 school-based sealant programs statewide. That number is climbing.”
The cleaning and sealing takes about 30 minutes and then it’s back to class.
Dr. Zapert says research has shown for every dollar spent on sealant programs, it saves $1.88 in dental work later.