Nonprofit dental clinic works to brighten smiles

kschwers@kcstar.comMarch 17, 2017 

Grade-school students in Cass County and a part of Jackson County learned to prevent tooth decay after a nonprofit dental clinic spent the school year screening and educating hundreds of students in oral hygiene.

The Cass Community Health Foundation, with its Cass County Dental Clinic, screened nearly 4,000 students, and gave more than 1,600 a fluoride varnish this year.

The clinic, based in Belton, said it expanded the program to include many school districts in Cass County, including Archie, Belton, Drexel, East Lynne, Harrisonville, Midway, Pleasant Hill, Raymore-Peculiar and Strasburg.

Dental hygenists and trained volunteers, like Chase Coffman, go into the schools each fall and winter to teach good oral hygiene habits and to check students’ teeth. The nonprofit recently wrapped up its annual free dental screenings on March 10 at Harrisonville Elementary School.

Coffman, an NFL tight end from Peculiar, recently volunteered to help apply fluoride varnish to students’ teeth along with Sarah Czech of the Cass County Health Department and Katie Schroeder, the clinic’s outreach coordinator and dental hygienist.

Coffman, a 30-year-old football player, graduated from Raymore-Peculiar High School in 2005, and is currently a free agent. He spent a few hours volunteering for the foundation after going through a training course.

“I think it’s more of getting involved with the community I’m a part of and that I live in,” Coffman said. “It’s a great cause, and like I told the foundation, I don’t know what my future will be, but I’m going to try to help out while I’m around.”

Schroeder coordinates every school visit, like the one on March 10. She says she spends most of her time in Cass County schools, talking with students and answering their questions about caring for their teeth and gums. She led a talk at Harrisonville Elementary on March 10, and more than 100 students received a fluoride varnish. Students in the nonprofit’s coverage area can get two free fluoride varnish applications with parental consent.

The clinic says they’re able to make the fluoride varnish application free for the students thanks to a partnership with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services as well as supply donations from other organizations the clinic works with. Schroeder said the clinic found that more than 800 children had untreated tooth decay.

“The kids who are screened are then referred to the dental clinic for follow-up care if they are low-income, uninsured or insured by Missouri Medicaid,” Schroeder said, adding that the clinic doesn’t accept private insurance. “We are just trying to catch the kids who don’t have access otherwise.”

Ninety-seven percent of the children who come to the clinic are on Medicaid, while the other 3 percent usually come from low-income uninsured families, Schroeder said. She said families pay a nominal fee when they receive dental services from the clinic.

“Compared to some of the other counties in Missouri, we look fairly good, but that being said, there’s still over 7,000 kids in Cass County who are on Missouri Medicaid,” Schroeder said.

The nonprofit has a full-time clinic in Belton and a satellite clinic in Harrisonville.

For more information about the foundation, visit www.casscommunityhealth.org.

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