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 Dental Clinic Brightens Smiles for Migrant Education Students

dental 1.jpgMore than 100 children from around the county received much-needed dental care over the past week thanks to efforts of San Diego County Office of Education's (SDCOE) Migrant Education team.

Now in its sixth year, Migrant Education's summer mobile dental clinic partners with USC's Ostrow School of Dentistry to bring the university's state-of-the-art mobile clinic to San Diego County. This year, the mobile clinic was stationed at Escondido High School for seven days.

SDCOE team members, social workers, and others brought students served by Migrant Education from Bonsall, Rainbow, Fallbrook, Lemon Grove, Imperial Beach, Oceanside Carlsbad, Escondido, De Luz, San Marcos, and Encinitas.

The clinic treated 105 students – who ranged in age from 3 to 20 – and 90 percent of those had at least five visits for various dental treatments, including cleanings and X-rays, said Adriana Paulson, a migrant health and support services specialist who organizes the dental clinics.

Nursing students from Cal State San Marcos volunteered one day at the clinic, providing health education information, and AmeriCorps members provided activities for the children while they waited.

Providing the dental clinic is an "incredible thing to do for the community and for our families who have limited access to quality dental care," Paulson said.

The clinic gives the children a positive experience with dentists, which will lead to good lifelong dental habits, she said.

"If children are not healthy, they won't be able to learn," Paulson said. "It's part of closing the achievement gap. We have to think not just about learning skills – we have to focus on the whole body. You cannot learn math if you have toothache."

Paulson said she knows the mobile dental clinic is valuable when she receives messages from parents, including one this week from the mother of two children who received dental care: "I'd like to thank you for taking the time to help our children with their teeth, may God bless you. On behalf of myself and my kids, many thanks to you and all the people who made this assistance for so many people like myself possible."