More schools in Iowa could potentially add on-campus dental clinics. Last week, the Des Moines School District announced it’ll house Iowa’s first school-based dental clinic at Scavo High School, located in a building on the western edge of downtown Des Moines. The clinic is being financed by a $250,000 grant from the Delta Dental of Iowa Foundation.
Delta Dental of Iowa CEO Jeff Russell says a child’s oral health can have a big impact on their performance in school. “Dental issues are one of the top two or three reasons for school absenteeism, so we thought it would be nice connection for that,” Russell said. “If other schools across the state might embrace this concept or have us, we’d certainly love to work with them as well. We think it’s a good concept to help serve folks who might not get service somewhere else.”
There are about 33,000 students in Des Moines Schools and 72 percent are in low-income households, according to the district’s figures tied to a Free and Reduced Price Lunch program. Consequently, a high percentage of students do not have access to dental care due to barriers such as cost, transportation, language and parent work schedules.
“I think the goal of all the partners involved in this is to make sure that these kids build up a behavior, a habit of seeing the dentist on a regular basis from a preventative perspective, rather than just waiting until they have pain in their mouth or a toothache,” Russell said. “So, hopefully have it on site will eliminate some of that fear of going to the dentist or also the issue of logistics of getting to the dentist.” In addition to the grant from Delta Dental to build the clinic, the Mid-Iowa Health Foundation is providing $55,000 in grants to support startup costs for operating the clinic.