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Screening at area schools to determine dental needs

By By Suzanne Digmon Staff writer
Dr. Stuart Lockwood, state dental director, was at Rachel Patterson Elementary School Tuesday piloting a program aimed to increase access to dental care for low income school-age children in Alabama.
The department received a federal grant for $50,000 and selected Escambia county to conduct the first screening. "Support from the local health department staff is so very good in this area," Lockwood said Tuesday during the screening. They hope to receive another $50,000 at the first of the year.
Lockwood, along with Drs. Francisco Rodriguez, Kristen Crowder, and John Thornton worked diligently at Rachel Patterson screening every child whose parents allowed them to be seen. This activity is not competing with dentists in the private sector, but is aiming to screen every child in public school in this county-approximately 6,000. They hope to determine how many children have tooth decay and determine what percentages need urgent dental treatment.
After the first of the year, senior dental students from Birmingham will come and spend a day putting dental sealant on 2nd grade children. There will be three dental students at the public health department around that time to treat those children found to need urgent care.
Another goal of the program is to screen every 1-4 year old child that is in a sector of public day care, including WIC, Headstart and Medicaid. The dentists also want to begin screening pregnant women on Medicaid to determine if their unborn babies will develop tooth decay. These women will hopefully be able to get oral health education and a preventive strategy to lessen the likelihood of getting tooth decay.
Lockwood told us on Tuesday, "A lot of people are working on this with alot of components-public and private health professionals. There is a group in Escambia county involved in oral health; they're very supportive. This is not an activity competing with private dentists."