Uninsured Beaverton Children Receive Oral Care At OHSU

02/26/11  Portland, Ore.

The Beaverton Rotary Club celebrates a 10-year partnership with the OHSU School of Dentistry, providing care to hundreds of uninsured children annually.

Diego Trujillo, 8, is happy to see his dentist. The William  Walker Elementary School soon-to-be third-grader has visited the OHSU School of Dentistry’s Dr. and Mrs. Carl Rietman Pediatric Dentistry Clinic about 10 times since the beginning of the year, thanks to the Beaverton Rotary Club, and he considers himself an old hand at being a dental patient.  In early May, Diego had a space maintainer removed and replaced to keep his molars from moving while new teeth grow in.

Fourth-year dental student Erica Kelly (left) cares for Diego Trujillo, 8, in the School of Dentistry's Dr. and Mrs. Carl Rietman Pediatric Dentistry Clinic.

“I like coming,” said Diego. “They make my teeth feel good.”

Like 95 percent of children seen at the OHSU School of Dentistry through the Beaverton Rotary Club, Diego’s parents are migrant farm workers and have no health insurance. Without the free oral health care provided by Beaverton Rotary, in partnership with OHSU, Diego wouldn’t have regular access to oral care, and with a growing mouth, he would almost certainly be faced with overcrowding, tooth decay and, consequently, poor overall health into adulthood.

“Our oral health program through Beaverton Rotary is so important,” said Prashant Gagneja, D.D.S., chairman of pediatric dentistry. “By preventing dental problems now, children have a much better chance of maintaining good health and being successful in school, which later serves them well as adults.”

The Beaverton Rotary Club began its Dental Check/Dental Aid Program in September 1997. Two dentists — OHSU School of Dentistry alumus Jon Goodwin, D.M.D., and Carl Voorhies, D.D.S., -- initiated the program after seeing so many Beaverton-area young people in their private practices with dental pain and poor dental health. Goodwin and Voorhies suggested to their fellow Rotary Club members that providing funds for low-income, uninsured children to see a dentist would be a good community service project.

Since then, about 2,670 children have received dental screenings by volunteer dental professionals and 702 children have received needed dental treatment, a $242,453 value — about $345 per child.

Children who receive free and reduced-fee school lunches and permission from their parents are eligible for the Dental Check/Dental Aid Program and are screened at four Beaverton, Ore., elementary schools by volunteer dental professionals through Northwest Medical Teams. Participating schools include Barnes, Vose, Beaver Acres and William Walker elementaries.

Each child screened receives instruction in proper dental hygiene, a toothbrush, toothpaste and a dental mirror. A dental chart is prepared for each child to reflect any dental problems. Some children who do not have dental problems receive decay-preventing tooth sealants that same day. Children with more complicated dental needs, like cavities or tooth decay, are scheduled for care at the OHSU School of Dentistry.

The children who receive care at the OHSU School of Dentistry often have no means of transportation and are brought to the dental school by the Red Cross and a school nurse. Each child is assigned to a student dentist (who is overseen by a pediatric dentistry resident and faculty pediatric dentists) and continue to see the same student dentist until the student dentist either graduates or the child’s dental care is finished.

“I really enjoy working in the pediatric dentistry clinic,” said Erica Kelly, a fourth-year OHSU dental student who helped Diego in May. “It’s a lot of fun and there is always something new to learn. The kids are great and I enjoy the challenge of trying to make going to the dentists a fun event. The Beaverton Rotary Club children are especially great to work with.”

“This is a very rewarding program with which to be involved,” said Leroy Bentley, a retired businessman and Beaverton Rotary Club member who coordinates the Dental Check/Dental Aid Program. “The teachers have told us that the children are missing less school because their oral health needs are met. Helping young people become successful adults is a great feeling and the program also benefits student dentists and pediatric residents who are learning how to care for children.”

The Beaverton Rotary Club pays for the project through grants from the City of Beaverton’s Social Services Fund, The Oregon Dental Foundation, The Northwest Health Foundation, The Juan Young Trust, The Beaverton Rotary Foundation, American Dental Foundation, the Morgan Stanley Foundation, the Spirit Mountain Community Fund, and the Oregon Community Foundation, among others. All funds received are used to provide dental care for the children, said Bentley.

Between July 1, 2005, and June 30, 2006, 1,590 children were treated at the School of Dentistry’s Dr. and Mrs. Carl Rietman Pediatric Dentistry Clinic. About 20 percent of pediatric dentistry patients are referred from the Beaverton Rotary Club.

“We greatly value our partnership with the Beaverton Rotary Club,” said Gagneja. “It is heartwarming to see a community really step up to the plate and take action to make a difference for children. This is a perfect example of how a simple initiative by adults can go a long way in helping children succeed.”