Mobile dental program helps nearly 100 students at Toliver

Published 6:38 pm Thursday, March 21, 2019

A team of dental professionals set up a mobile dental office at Toliver Intermediate School for three days this week and treated nearly 100 children who otherwise might not receive dental care.

Tonya Craycraft, an expanded duty dental assistant with Big Smiles, a moblile in-school dental program servicing children nationwide, prepares a Toliver Intermediate student for a dental x-ray Wednesday morning. Also working on students in the background are a hygenist, dental assistant and a licensed dentist. (Photo by Robin Hart)

Tonya Craycraft, an expanded duty dental assistant said the service comes to Toliver twice a year. She said at least 90 percent of the students probably would never see a dentist if it weren’t for the Big Smiles’ program coming into area schools.

Email newsletter signup

According to a news release, Big Smiles Dental is the nation’s largest mobile in-school dental program, servicing nearly 500,000 children annually. The program’s mission is to improve students’ oral health while at the same time making it convenient for parents to have their children checked annually.

On Wednesday, students who had parental permission for dental checkups and treatments were ushered into a temporary dental office at the school, where digital x-rays were taken and teeth cleaning, checkups and minor restorations were carried out.

“No child is ever charged” for dental treatment, Craycraft said. And there’s no charge to the school district either, she added. The program is covered by families’ dental insurance, including Medicaid and state CHIP programs. Private dental insurance is also accepted, according to the news release.

Dental services include x-rays, oral exams, cleanings, sealants and flouride treatments. Tooth fillings can also be done, Craycraft said.

There are six Big Smiles teams in Kentucky that travel to schools every day. She said this team not only covers schools in Danville and Boyle County, but Lincoln County and Jefferson County schools, as well.

A Toliver student opens wide as a dental hygenist cleans his teeth. (Photo by Robin Hart)

The popularity of mobile dental programs for schools is due in part to the fact that many dentists no longer accept certain dental insurance, Craycraft said. Also, the service is convenient for parents because they don’t have to spend the better part of their day checking the child out of school and going to an appointment.

Craycraft said a few years ago, a high-school student came in to the mobile office and was ashamed of the condition of his teeth. He talked with his hand covering his mouth, she said.

After discussing the intense process of cleaning and restoration work that needed to be done — a process that normally would be completed in two or three visits — the team decided they could help the student in just one day.

Craycraft pulled up photos on her cell phone showing the before and after photos of the work they did. She said the young man was very happy, and asked her if she thought he could get a girlfriend now.

When he sent his prom pictures to her, she was overjoyed, she said. He had never attended a dance before but now had the self-confidence to enjoy prom, Craycraft said.

“I really love what we do.”