School nurse collaboration to provide evidence based flouride varnish for high caries risk students and referral for restorative dental care
Trost, Michelle Louise
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Despite improvements in public health dentistry, low-income children continue to experience dental caries at higher rates than their counterparts. Commonly cited factors that impede low-income families from obtaining dental care include difficulty getting time off from work, lack of transportation or childcare, and lack of knowledge regarding the importance of oral health care. Community-based approaches to reduce caries rates, such as school-based dental sealant programs, are gaining popularity. School nurses can have an instrumental role in improving oral health access within their schools by collaborating with personnel from these programs to perform assessments, case-finding, and fluoride varnish application with increased frequency. Utilizing dental sealant program screening data from a low-income elementary school, school nurses identified students at highest risk for dental caries (N = 98) and offered a repeat application of fluoride varnish six months following the initial screening and application. In addition, school nurses utilized the screening data to identify students with untreated decay (N = 49). Those students who had not obtained professional dental care following the initial screening were offered referral to an onsite mobile dental van for professional restorative care. The results of this project indicated that school nurses can successfully enhance fluoride protection and improve access to preventive and professional oral health care for children attending low-income schools.