Dental grant helps Guilford County Schools students

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GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. -- The Delta Dental Foundation awarded the Guilford County Health Department a $5,000 grant to provide free dental services to students in need.

Dental Hygienist Debbie Kennedy has been working with the health department for about 18 years. Last year she saw a need for children within Guilford County Schools and created Project Access Dental.

“We had a lot of children who did not have access to dental care because they either did not have private insurance, they didn’t qualify for Medicaid or Health Choice and their parents could not afford it. So we literally had  children who were going for long periods of time who were in pain because they had such severe tooth decay,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy provides in school screening for approximately 5,200 students at 69 elementary schools.

“It’s something like 51,000 school hours are lost every year due specifically to tooth pain and so we just feel like If a child is in pain even if they’re in the classroom, it’s hard to pay attention,” Kennedy explained.

She also serves as a consultant to the middle and high school students. If teachers in the upper-grade levels notice a student who may benefit from the service they too can also apply for the free service.

“If they do qualify then I send them a certificate and then they are on their own then to call and make an appointment with the dental clinic,” Kennedy said.

The dental clinics are in High Point and Greensboro at a reduced rate than a patient would receive at a private practice.

Last year, Kennedy said the grant they previously received allowed for the full care of about a dozen students.

This year, Guilford County is one of two programs granted full funding out of 17 applicants.