Liberty Community Health Care, Inc. and the United Way of the Big Bend have partnered to form a preventative dental program called Healthy Smiles, Happy Students. Thanks to the cooperation and collaboration of the Gadsden County School Board and the Department of Health in Gadsden County, this program is making strides to addressing the dental health needs of the county’s children.

Background:Although preventable, tooth decay is the number one chronic childhood disease in the United States, and children in this country lose more than 51 million school hours each year due to dental-related illness. Through research and various community conversations, we have discovered that poor oral health is a consistent problem throughout the Big Bend including Gadsden County. This directly impacts on children’s quality of life, their performance at school and their success later in life. Low income students are the hardest hit. Barriers such as transportation, a parent’s inability to take time off work and the lack of dental providers all work against the needs of these children being met.

What to do:Healthy Smiles, Happy Students is a school-based preventative dental program that addresses the dental needs of all of the children attending Gadsden County Schools, Pre-K through 12th grade. Dental assessment, cleaning, fluoride varnish, oral health instruction, and dental sealants are provided to those children whose parents consent to services. All services are provided in the schools, by registered dental hygienists, during the regular school day.