There were smiles all around Thursday when the Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas received a $25,000 check from Smiles Across America, an Oral Health America program supporting dental services to underserved children nationwide.

There were smiles all around Thursday when the Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas received a $25,000 check from Smiles Across America, an Oral Health America program supporting dental services to underserved children nationwide.

The funds, which mark an important new partnership between CHC/SEK and Smiles Across America, will be used for screening and preventative oral health services in area schools.

A gala check presentation ceremony, complete with dinner and live music, was held at the Family Resource Center.  Special guests included Beth Truett, president/CEO of Oral Health America; Kim Moore, president of the United Methodist Health Ministry Fund; Jason Wesco, deputy director for the Kansas Association for the Medically Underserved; and Brian Smith, Galena superintendent of schools.

“Everybody in this room is responsible in some way for our oral health program,” said Krista Postai, Community Health Center CEO. “All dental care in southeast Kansas has come to a halt because our entire dental staff is in this room.”

She said that CHC/SEK’s involvement with Smiles Across America came when she saw online an offer of dental sealant and applied for it. Sealant is a thin plastic coating applied to the permanent molars to prevent decay. It is most effective when applied shortly after these teeth have erupted, usually when a child is around 6.

CHC/SEK now visits area schools to do oral health screenings and apply sealant.

“We’ll be able to seal 10,000 teeth in southeast Kansas with the dollars we received today,” said Monica Murnan, Family Resource Center executive director.

Postai said that Galena was the first school that allowed CHC/SEK to come in to its facilities.

“We had been bringing our kids to Pittsburg for fillings, then the Community Health Center said, ‘Why not do it here?’,” said Brian Smith. “I would be shocked if there is a kind with a cavity unfilled in the Galena school district at this point.”

Before, he said, youngsters had been coming to school in terrible pain from tooth decay, or missing school because of secondary infections.
“Now our test scores have gone up and our football team is better,” Smith said. “Our biggest football player had terrible cavities and was in terrible pain. He got his teeth fixed, and we were able to beat Colgan.”

“I am definitely going to tell people that Oral Health America can help you have a better football team,” said Beth Truett, president/CEO. “At this time of year, what news would be more welcome?”

She noted that tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease in America, affecting nearly 50 percent of second graders and nearly 80 percent of 17-year-olds.

“Dental decay is preventable,” Truett said. “Oral Health America was founded in 1955, and our mission is to change lives by connecting communities with resources.”

The organization seeks strong partners across the nation for this purpose, and currently has over 143 national partners in 34 states.
“Some receive product, and others receive product and funding,” Truett said.

After noting the years that CHC/SEK had applied to receive sealant, her organization decided to check into the agency, and last spring made an on-site visit.

“We went through a rigorous evaluation process,” Truett said. “The programs provided by the Community Health Center are best in class.”

She indicated that the partnership between CHC/SEK and Smiles Across America will be ongoing.

“We want to work with strong partners that will make those around them strong,” Truett said. “The sustainability of commitment of the community will be here, and perhaps we will make a little difference.”