Communities vs. Cavities

Tufts dental students provide screenings and cleanings to kids and grown-ups who otherwise may never get them
In the video above, Tufts Dental faculty and students talk about the program in which third-year students help provide care for underserved populations across Massachusetts. Video: Steffan Hacker
June 17, 2013

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Though it’s entirely preventable, tooth decay is making a comeback. It affects about 40 percent of U.S. children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with poorer and minority kids shouldering a disproportionate burden. That’s a dramatic increase since the mid-1990s, when 24 percent of children—an all-time low—had at least one cavity.

Now five times more prevalent than asthma, tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease. The resulting pain and complications can interfere with children’s overall health as well as their nutrition, sleep, speech, concentration and self-confidence.

That’s why Oral Health Across the Commonwealth, a partnership between Tufts University School of Dental Medicine and Commonwealth Mobile Oral Health Services, brings dental care to the vulnerable populations that need them. In schools, WIC centers, even facilities for adults with special needs, third-year dental students at Tufts have helped provide oral screenings, cleanings, sealants and fluoride treatments to kids and grown-ups who otherwise may never get them. Since its inception seven years ago, the program has brought oral health care to about 40,000 patients at more than 200 sites across Massachusetts.

Jacqueline Mitchell can be reached at jacqueline.mitchell@tufts.edu. Steffan Hacker can be reached at steffan.hacker@tufts.edu 

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