TCS partners with Friendly Dental Van

Jan. 21, 2014 @ 10:35 AM

Thomasville City Schools stresses the correlation between student health and academic success. Students find it harder to learn when they are not feeling well.
This concept also pertains to dental health. Trying to study for an exam is more difficult when a child is bothered by a toothache.
When decreased state funding eliminated a dental hygienist who visited schools across Davidson County, TCS administrators went to work on finding another solution.
“This is something we felt we needed to address,” said Mary Jane Akerman, TCS wellness coordinator. “We know the link between student health and student academic success. If a student has a toothache or some other dental issue, they're not going to be able to focus on their math. It detracts from their ability to learn during the school day.”
What TCS found is a partnership with long-lasting potential.
Beginning in the spring, all four TCS campuses will welcome the Friendly Dental Van, a Charlotte-based program that offers dental services to children who do not receive routine care.
Students can receive exams, cleanings, fillings, extractions and X-rays on-site in a state-of-the-art mobile van equipped to handle almost any dental procedure. The key component is the Friendly Dental Van accepts Medicaid, Health Choice and regular insurance.
Davidson County is below the state average for dentists per 1,000 people. Compounding the problem for some students is the fact many area dentists don't accept Medicaid and Health Choice. The Friendly Dental Van addresses both areas of concerns for TCS students.
“We knew we had a hole in the services that our children were receiving in that area,” Akerman said. “We want to provide dental care for our students who are uninsured. This allows us to provide that service to students who otherwise would not receive dental care.”
All four city schools will send out fliers for the service starting next week. Students will have until early February to return the forms before scheduling begins. Akerman said no student will be turned away.
“They will stay as long as needed,” said Akerman. “How long the van is here depends on how many students sign up.”
Free dental clinics are offered by the Davidson County Health Department in Lexington, but Akerman said making the out-of-town trip can be difficult for families.
“This is very convenient for parents,” Akerman said. “Students miss the minimal amount of school and parents don't have to miss work. We feel like this is a real win-win for our students and the community.”
There is no cost to TCS for the service, which also is used by the Lexington City and Davidson County school systems.
“We really think this will be a big positive for our students and their families,” said TCS Superintendent Dr. Maria Pitre-Martin. “Many students needs need dental care but the costs can be a barrier. This service has worked well with other school systems and we feel like it can be a great asset to the community.”
Akerman said the Friendly Dental Van will return to Thomasville every six months.
For more information, call Akerman at 474-4200.

Staff Writer Eliot Duke can be reached at 888-3578, or duke@tvilletimes.com.