Dental pros visit SD2 schools, work on students for free

2014-02-06T19:26:00Z 2014-02-07T14:52:04Z Dental pros visit SD2 schools, work on students for freeBy ROB ROGERS rrogers@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

Visiting the dentist is a little easier when the dentist comes to you. 

Groups of students at Washington Elementary School spent Thursday morning getting their teeth cleaned and their oral health evaluated by dentist and hygienist volunteers from Billings and Bozeman.

"In general, this is actually the ideal environment to see kids," said Bozeman dentist Jane Gillette. "They're with their peers, they're with their teachers."

Gillette travels the state through the Montana Dental Association's Sealants for Smiles program, funded by the Caring Foundation. It connects her with local dentists to visit schools and treat children free of charge. So far, they've worked on the mouths of 8,000 students, she said. 

On Friday morning, they'll be at Bench Elementary. 

Working with Gillette on Thursday morning was local dentist Chuck Blackburn, who also donates his services to the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile, part of the Ronald McDonald House Charities.

He's been to schools before to work on children and loves the experience.

"It's fun to do," he said.

The students, sitting in a line in an empty classroom all looked excited to be waiting to see Blackburn or Gillette. They chatted and laughed and a couple times, came over to watch as the dentists worked on their friends.

The school puts the students in a safe, familiar environment and they are often excited to get attention from the dentists, Gillette said. 

She sees all kinds of mouths and all kinds of problems. Rarely she comes across an issue that needs immediate attention. Most of their work is cleaning teeth, putting sealants on permanent teeth and diagnosing problems, she said. 

"For the most part, we see kids with pretty darn healthy teeth," she said. 

They work with parents as well, encouraging and oftentimes helping them get their kids enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP, the federal children's health insurance program.

"It's the single most rewarding thing I've done professionally in my whole life," Gillette said. 

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