UCSF Offers Free Dental Screenings to Children in Bayview

A boy gets a free dental screening in the Bayview.

Some 88 children received free dental screenings in the Bayview as part of a partnership between the UCSF School of Dentistry, the California State Assembly and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

 

The dentist's chair came out of the office and onto the streets of San Francisco on June 12 as UCSF provided free dental examinations to children at the Bayview Opera House Sunday Streets Family Health and Wellness Fair.

Students, residents and faculty from the UCSF School of Dentistry performed dental screenings and applied fluoride varnishes to promote early detection for tooth decay, a childhood disease nearly five times as common as asthma. More than half of children between the ages of 5 and 9 have had at least one filling or cavity, and by age 17, 78 percent of children will have experienced some form of tooth decay.

"Once an infection starts in the teeth, it spreads very quickly to other teeth and it spreads to their adult teeth," said Jeremy Horst, DDS, a pediatric dentistry resident at UCSF. "Starting a relationship early on, we can engage parents in changing their diet and nutrition in a way that these kids never have to have cavities. One of the most frustrating parts of being a pediatric dentist is that it's an entirely preventable disease."

The event, which provided screenings for 88 children, was a partnership between the UCSF School of Dentistry, the California State Assembly and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

“Dental screening is a crucial part of a child’s health," said Tom Ammiano, California State Assemblymember of District 13. "When I was young, my dentist told me that I only needed to brush the teeth that I wanted to keep and I’ve brushed twice a day ever since."

District 10 Supervisor Malia Cohen said partnerships like these not only provide important health information, they also build a relationship between the community and organizations such as UCSF.

A girl learns how to brush teeth in the Bayview.

Dania Eberhart, left, gets a lesson on how to brush her teeth by UCSF dental students who provided free screenings in the Bayview on June 12.

"I call it commitment in action," Cohen said. "It's one thing for you to come to the clinic, and it's another thing for the clinic to come to you. It's a fair and even exchange to meet people who would not tradtionally come to make an appointment and show them that coming to the dentist is not so bad."

Sheila Hill, who went to the dentist for the first time when she was a teenager, said she can relate.

"My mother didn't take me until I was 13 and so I really hated the dentist and so I didn't go," said Hill, who brought her 3-year-old son for a dental screening. "That's what made me not take my other three children to the dentist. It's good that they connect with kids while they're younger."

Staff were on hand to help make sure those relationships continue by providing oral hygiene instruction, parent counseling and information about access to treatment. According to Horst, all children in San Francisco are covered by the California Healthy Families Program and are able to get dental care at UCSF.

"There are tons of residents that don't realize we exist, that don't realize free dental clinics in Berkeley exist, and as a result, they don't seek health care," said Susan Poorsattor, DDS, a pediatric dentistry resident at UCSF. "It's our job to go into communities and educate them about what they have available and help them with those resources."

Photos by Nolan Feeney