UALR Children International Dental Program
Established in 1936, Children International (CI) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit humanitarian organization with international headquarters in Kansas City, Missouri. Worldwide, Children International provides assistance to more than 330,000 impoverished children and their families through the support of caring sponsors and donors. Children International’s programs and services help meet the children’s basic needs and provide them with opportunities to break the cycle of poverty.
In 1994, Children International and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR) established a partnership to nurture and provide educational enrichment, health and dental care, family assistance, and special gifts for children and youth attending the Little Rock Public Schools.
Children International works in partnerships with 16 UALR departments and 22 public and private agencies. In 2000, UALR CI launched the Dental Health Action Team and joined others around the state and nation to provide services for children without access to adequate dental care. The 22 organizations that comprise the Dental Health Action Team established the comprehensive Future Smiles Dental Program. With outstanding partners and committed volunteers, this group continues to provide dental services to children with the greatest need.
In 2005, Children International opened the Future Smiles Dental Clinic at Wakefield as the first elementary school-based dental clinic in Arkansas. In only six years’ time, the clinic has completed 6,795 patient visits and has provided more than 2,900 restorative treatments for children. Future Smiles is staffed by one dentist, a dental assistant, and clinic manager for eleven months each year. In partnership with Arkansas Children’s Hospital (ACH), the dentist works with the Future Smiles Clinic three days a week and two days at ACH. Each year, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) dental hygiene students perform dentist-supervised cleanings, X-rays, and sealants during their fall, spring, and summer rotation in the clinic.
The Future Smiles Dental Program provides comprehensive dental care to children in CI’s six partner elementary schools in the Little Rock School District, regardless of their participation in Children International, as well as all CI-sponsored students who attend local middle and high schools.
Children from Bale, Franklin, Stephens, Watson, Wilson and Wakefield Elementary Schools receive dental screenings each fall, in order to determine their dental needs. Children identified with dental decay are then scheduled for follow-up at the Future Smiles Dental Clinic (FSDC). Children from schools outside the clinic location are transported to FSDC by UALR CI staff.
If needed, the dentist prepares a treatment plan for restorative care, and provides oral hygiene instruction and a toothbrush kit for at-home dental care. The child is then scheduled for restorative appointments, which may be as many as five or as few as one, depending on the number of teeth with dental decay and the quadrant of the mouth affected. Restorative and preventative services are provided at Future Smiles and include fillings, stainless steel crowns, and extractions.
Over the past 11 years, the Future Smiles Dental Program has provided critical resources to improve the oral health of thousands of children. Services provided include:
23,859 dental screenings and toothbrush kits
2,825 children received 8,527 dental sealants
2,140 children received two treatments of fluoride varnish
6,795 patient visits to the Future Smiles Dental
2,653 prophylaxis (cleanings)
1,001 radiographs (X-rays)
2,137 sealants applied for 661 children
Though oral health care is vital to wellness, many children from low-income families in Little Rock suffer a lack of adequate dental care.
The lack of appropriate dental treatment has the potential to affect speech, nutrition, social development, quality of life, overall health and, in the worst cases, can lead to death. Studies have found that children with oral diseases are often restricted in their daily activities; nationwide, more than 51 million hours of school each year are missed because of oral diseases.
The high prevalence of dental disease, disparities in dental health, and barriers to obtaining care point to the need to improve access to dental services for low-income children. The UALR Children International’s (UALR CI) Future Smiles Dental Program and its partners are working together to improve the health of those impoverished children.