Mobile Dental Clinics Raise Awareness of Oral Health for Children
The IRC in Atlanta is dedicated to ensuring its clients’ health and well-being are a priority. During the past several months, the IRC in Atlanta has held three dental screening events in the Clarkston area to focus more on the oral health of the children who are being resettled by the IRC. Mobile dental clinic programs including “Big Smiles Alabama” and Colgate’s “Bright Smiles, Bright Futures” have brought free dental screenings, restorative care, and dental health education to the Atlanta refugee population.
Youth show off their new smiles. Photo: Tracy Murphy
There is a large need for dental services among refugee youth, particularly in the Burmese and Nepalese communities. According to Bobby Farmer, Healthcare Specialist for the IRC in Atlanta, oral health is not addressed in refugee camp settings as much as other types of healthcare. “Almost every time that we take newly arrived children to their initial pediatrician visit, the doctor tells us that the child needs to see a dentist,” said Farmer.
The actual dental screenings and services to refugee clients are important, but the most crucial part of the programs is the oral health education materials that are provided to all participants. The “Bright Smiles, Bright Futures” van shows educational videos about dental health and does a brushing demonstration with an enormous toothbrush and set of teeth for children. They also check the condition of each child’s teeth and rate the urgency with which s/he needs to see a dentist. “Big Smiles Alabama” has a full dental clinic in their van, and conducted cleanings and restoration for the IRC in Atlanta’s youth, including a second visit for follow-up with particularly urgent cases.
As the relationship has grown between the IRC in Atlanta and these mobile dental clinics we have been able to schedule specific visits in the apartment communities in Clarkston where many of our clients live. “In the past,” added Farmer, “We would take groups of kids to Wal-Mart or the mall where the van was parked. Now we call the vans and have them come right to their homes, which has drastically increased the amount of outreach we have been able to do.” Looking forward, the IRC in Atlanta plans to continue to grow its dental health awareness initiatives, and hopes to use future mobile van visits to educate refugee families about the importance of their dental health.