Children's Dental Program Set to Expand in Northern Nevada

Volunteer dental practitioners conduct oral health education activities with children participants in pilot program

Volunteer dental practitioners conduct oral health education activities with children participants in pilot program

I have been blogging over the past few years about my involvement with our local community to improve our children’s dental health and hygiene. Today I am pleased to share that we reached a major milestone in partnership with Tahoe Forest Health System and Washoe County School District, to expand our dental health pilot project to reach the entire student body at Incline Elementary School in the coming year. This means our bi-annual dental screening events and services will reach all pre-kindergarten through 5th grade students starting next school year! This decision comes at the end of a 2-year pilot project where we have served pre-kindergarten and kindergarten children with oral health education, a basic oral health screening, and application of protective topical fluoride (varnish).

During the pilot project, we hosted 3 successful dental screening events, the last of which was in April, just prior to the Easter holiday. At this event, we served 42 children with fluoride varnish and provided 7 children with referrals to the dentist for detected cavities and potential infections.

From the 2-year pilot project, we learned several important lessons that have helped us improve the program. First, we separated the oral health education program from the actual screening event. By scheduling the education portion 1 to 2 weeks in advance of the actual screening, we found that more children were motivated to get their consent forms to their parents so that they could participate in the screening and varnishing. We also found that coordinating the events with traditionally high sugar holidays, such as Halloween and Easter, put a fun spin on the event while helping to drive home the key oral health messaging at a critical time. We also learned more and continue to learn about cost structuring and factors motivating parents to schedule oral health visits for their children. 

Looking forward, we are thrilled to build momentum around the oral health movement – which would not be possible without our amazingly dedicated partners and volunteers. In the year to come, I hope to see a major increase in the number of children who attend dental screenings and receive varnish treatments. I am proud that through a community-based movement, we are building a solid foundation for improving the oral health situation in northern Nevada, one child’s smile at a time.

Pam Straley is a founder and board member of 3rd Creek Foundation. She is an M.S., R.N., and Family Nurse Practitioner with a diverse background in nursing and health care administration. Her international career took off in 1974, when she joined the Peace Corps in Nicaragua as a community health volunteer. Recognizing her passion for global health, Pam continued to work with medical centers in Costa Rica and Indonesia. She has also consulted for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) as its HIV/AIDS Prevention Project Manager in Zambia, as well as for the American Public Health Association, and Peace Corps. Most recently Pam served as Manager of a clinic in Incline Village serving low income, uninsured residents of Northern Nevada. Pamela earned her B.S.N. at California State Long Beach (1970), and M.S.N./F.N.P at the University of California, San Francisco (1985). She has published a health education manual and guide to general health services for foreigners in Indonesia.