CINCINNATI (AP) — An in-school dental clinic believed by local and state health officials to be the only one in Ohio officially opened Monday.
The three-chair clinic has been operating a few weeks but was officially unveiled at Oyler School in the Cincinnati Public Schools District. The city health department and the Cincinnati Dental Society’s Oral Health Foundation are operating the clinic, and it will be staffed by a full-time dentist, with the foundation providing volunteer dentists to help serve children who don’t have insurance.
Health and school officials say a lack of dental care is a frequent problem.
“There is a national epidemic of early childhood decay that is frightening,” said Dr. Marilyn Crumpton, director of school and adolescent health for the Cincinnati Health Department. “We have been identifying children we don’t see at city health clinics until their jaws are swollen. This will provide prevention as well as treatment.”
The clinic is expected initially to serve 900 students and children from the surrounding community and reach full capacity of 1,300 students in a few years, but Crumpton said students from throughout the 33,000-student district can come to the clinic if they can’t get to other services.
Various organizations helped cover the startup costs, with Delta Dental Foundation providing most of the funding. But the clinic is designed to be self-sustaining.
Crumpton says it will operate on a sliding-fee schedule with the clinic billing health insurance providers, including Medicaid, and parents when possible. But no students will be turned away if their parents cannot pay.
A senior at Oyler was at the clinic Monday to get some broken teeth fixed.
“I love it,” said Romello Kirkland, 18. “If this wasn’t here, I probably would still be in pain and trying to see a dentist. But I was able to walk right in here and get help.”
Steven Stanley Sr. has a 5-year-old son attending the school.
“This is great idea, especially because of the convenience for students and parents,” Stanley, 28, said. “Parents won’t have to take off work or take their kids out of school to get dental care for them.”