(Note: This story was updated at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 28, 2014, to replace an incomplete version of the story.)
Nearly 700 students received free dental services during a two-day pediatric dental clinic through N.C. Missions of Mercy, the state’s largest free mobile dental program.
The Project L.I.F.T learning community partnered with the N.C. Dental Health Fund and other public and private organizations to offer free teeth cleanings, screenings, sealants and other preventive services to uninsured and under-insured students from nine Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools.
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More than 30 stations were set up in the gym at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church on Thursday and Friday, and volunteer dental professionals from across the state spent roughly 30 minutes with each student.
Community and educational volunteers – such as students in Central Piedmont Community College’s dental program – also helped educate kids about proper dental hygiene.
Even though many had never been to a dentist, there wasn’t much apprehension from the students, said Scott Davenport, president of the N.C. Dental Society.
Jordan Logan, 11, is a sixth-grader at Ranson IB Middle School. Friday afternoon wasn’t the first time he’d seen a dentist, so he wasn’t nervous, he said. But he did learn something new, such as the best toothbrush position to get plaque off his back teeth.
The free clinic took more than a year of planning to put together, and area dentists Spurgeon Webber and Brandi Jackson – who co-chaired the initiative – called it historic.
It was the first Missions of Mercy pediatric clinic in the state, Jackson said, and the first privately funded pediatric dental clinic in the nation to bring together public and private entities.
A grant from Sisters of Mercy and private funding helped ensure the event was successful, Webber said. Next steps include helping parents find resources for ongoing care, such as the Mecklenburg County Health Department and others, organizers said.
“Improved education through improved health is good for our community,” Webber said. “It’s a template that can be duplicated and improved upon regionally and nationally.”