OFC News - Head Start Children to Get Dental Care in Mobile Clinic
In May, Southeastern Mobile Dental Services, Inc. began visiting the Department of Family Services Office for Children Head Start and Early Head Start sites, making their first stop at the Gum Springs Children’s Center in Alexandria on May 14. On May 15, Southeastern’s 32-foot mobile clinic stopped at Head Start’s Higher Horizons site in Falls Church. The mobile dental clinic will visit Head Start sites in 54 schools on a rotating basis so that children at each location are served at least every six months.
Head Start is a comprehensive early childhood education program that serves 0 to 3-year-olds and 3 to 5-year-olds from low-income families. In addition to educating children, Head Start helps low-income families receive health care and social services.
“Children should have regular dental care as soon as the last tooth appears in the back of their mouths – usually around age 3,” says the Office for Children’s Jennifer Branch, who manages Fairfax County’s Head Start program.
The children will be cared for by state-licensed dentists, dental assistants, hygienists and technicians with state-of-the-art equipment. Services include dental exams, x-rays, fillings and simple extractions. Children needing more in-depth treatment will be referred to local dentists.
Some children as young as age 3 already have tooth decay, because as infants their bedtime routine included falling asleep while drinking from baby bottles. The sugars in the milk or juice pooled around their teeth, feeding the bacteria naturally found in the human mouth. Bacteria produces acid that attacks tooth enamel, causing cavities.
“Poor dental health affects a child’s ability to learn,” Branch explains. “Freedom from tooth pain helps children to be more ready to learn.”