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Free Dental Screenings are Elementary for Some Durham Students

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DURHAM — To avoid massive bills at the dentist's office, it is important start taking care of teeth at an early age. But a lot of young children do not get the dental care they need. According to theDurham CountyHealth Department, there are 15,000 children in the county who never see a dentist. Dr. Ted Brooks is out to change that.

In Durham this week, Brooks and an assistant are visiting elementary schools to give students free checkups.

Thursday, the lobby of Parkwood Elementary looked more like a dentist's office.

"We are taking care of that particular part of the population that, if we weren't here, very few of them would be seen," says Brooks.

The health department screens every elementary student. Students whose parents can afford dental care are referred to their dentist.

Those who cannot afford it receive free care from Durham County's Dental Clinic. Students will not know if one of their classmates is too poor to see the dentist.

Muriel Smith is one of the lucky ones. She sees her dentist regularly and gets good advice from mom.

"She says 'Don't forget to brush your teeth at night and floss in the morning, and at night and rinse,'" says Muriel.

"It begins a good habit that may follow them for life, seeing a dentist regularly,"says Brooks. "And also, we can take care of a lot of problems we see so the children don't have to experience pain. If a child is hurting, he or she is not going to be effective in school and learning."

Brooks says he will not be satisfied until the students who do have dental problems come back to the next screening with the problems fixed.