HSC brings Healthy Smiles Initiative to children across North Texas

Teeth being treated b an oral hygeneist. Photo courtesy of the IPTC.
Photo courtesy of the IPTC, via Creative Commons.

The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth is partnering with the Texas Woman’s University dental hygiene program to bring a new Healthy Smiles Initiative to the fourth annual Giving Kids a Smile event.

TWU’s dental hygiene program has provided free oral care to children in North Texas for several years through the Giving Kids a Smile event. The goal of the clinic is to instill good oral health behavior as early as possible to prevent any issues down the road.

“We believe oral health affects the quality of life of all individuals,” said Charlene Dickinson, associate clinical professor and dental hygiene program director at TWU. “Children with poor oral health are at risk of being underweight, having behavioral problems and developing chronic illnesses later in life.

“If we can encourage good oral hygiene early on, we can hopefully stop any preventable issues before they happen.”

HSC’s new Healthy Smiles Initiative will add another focus to the event. The goal of the initiative is to encourage parents to have their children ages 9 to 17 get the HPV vaccine. Human papillomavirus infection can cause cancer in the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils. HPV vaccination could prevent more than 90% of cancers caused by HPV from ever developing, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The HPV vaccine can prevent six types of cancer and is safe, effective and provides long-lasting protection,” said Stacey Griner, an assistant professor in the HSC School of Public Health. “It’s best for children to get vaccinated early – starting at 9 years old. This gives the body time to develop a full immune response to HPV.”

Students from TWU’s dental hygiene program, HSC’s School of Public Health, and HSC’s Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine will be at the clinic to assist with dental cleanings and paperwork, taking vitals and recording health histories. Dental cleanings for children will be free, and dental hygienists will educate parents about the importance of the HPV vaccine, especially as it applies to oral health.

The vaccines provided at this event are funded by a grant in collaboration with HSC and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Plans are in the works for a second vaccine clinic later this year. This clinic will provide free dental cleanings and the second HPV vaccine.

When: from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on March 25

Where: Texas Woman’s University’s MCL building, 304 Administration Dr.Denton, TX 76204

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