Ohio County Students Get Dental Help

Photo Provided West Liberty University student Desi VanCuran, left, assists Steenrod Elementary School fourth grader Alicia Harvath at the Madison Elementary School Dental Clinic.

WHEELING — There is help available to students in Ohio County Schools who have a toothache, or worse.

The dental clinic, located inside Madison Elementary School on Wheeling Island, has been tending to the teeth of toddlers and teenagers in the school district for more than 50 years. It was started by the late Dr. William Grubler in 1967.

Last year, Ohio County Schools Dental Director Stefanie Yahn and hygienist Courtney Huffman took over the clinic. Each Friday when school is in session they provide assistance to as many as 16 students who have been scheduled.

“There’s no reason why any student in Ohio County Schools should be suffering from pain and dental disease,” Huffman said.

Anytime oral disease can be prevented, it saves a lot of time and money in terms of doing restorative work in the future, she said.

Huffman cited numbers from the Centers for Disease Control reporting that half of children ages 2-11 experience some kind of dental decay before 11.

“That’s pretty staggering, considering the technology and the advancements in dentistry today, and the education regarding nutrition and how dental decay is formed,” she said.

“We also know when a child suffers from dental pain, they miss more school. This affects them academically, as well. It’s a bad situation all the way around.”

Huffman said she and Yahn, a dentist with a practice in Warwood, work together to do dental assessments of students, provide dental education in the schools, and treat them as needed.

They provide hygiene services, including cleanings, fluoride treatments and sealants, as well as x-rays, restorative procedures and extractions. All of these services are free.

The West Virginia Department of Education requires that students entering pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, second grade, seventh grade and their senior year have a dental exam done during the course of that year.

“These students, if they haven’t seen a dentist in the last year, need an assessment done, “Huffman said. “A lot of the patients we get come from those assessments.”

Sometimes the school nurse identifies a student dental issue, and refers them to the clinic. Other times, the student’s parent or guardian contact the clinic for assistance.

Huffman encourages the parents and guardians of children not able to see a dentist to fill out an application available at their child’s school. She and Yahn review the applications to assess patient care.

Last year, Ohio County Schools received a $24,000 grant from the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources to help them upgrade technology at the dental clinic.

This allowed them to go to paperless charts in the clinic, buy an autoclave, and purchase additional education resources to teach children proper dental practices.

Students from West Liberty University’s dental program also get involved with the clinic, helping to educate children in the classrooms.

While most people — especially young children — hate going to the dentist, Huffman reports the youths coming to the clinic as patients actually are happy to be there.

“Ohio County Schools students love it,” she said. “We make it a friendly, happy environment and they are thrilled to come in.

“We know might be nervous. But we explain thoroughly and show them what we are going to do. It helps alleviate any anxiety they might have. And when you’re excited about dental hygiene, they are.”

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