Future Smiles Brings Students Access to Oral Health Care in Nevada

By Terri Chandler RDH, Founder and Executive Director, Future Smiles

Future Smiles school-based oral health care programI am the executive director of Future Smiles, a school-based oral health care program in Clark County, Nevada—the fifth largest school district in the country. And it’s still growing, which explains why certain resources, such as teachers, services, and supplies have been stretched so thin over the years. With dental care access at capacity, too, Future Smiles bridges the service gap by bringing much-needed oral health care and education directly to students in their schools.

As a partner with the school district, I’m eager to know that Future Smiles is seen as a valuable resource to our education stakeholders. In our most recent evaluation, conducted in collaboration with ICF International, we set out to assess teacher perspectives on the program’s benefits. We wanted to know if the program was considered a positive or negative addition to the already overwhelming demands placed on the teachers. The interest in teachers’ perspectives, as opposed to those of dental professionals—a question we heard from the peanut gallery—is that their approval and support of the program is critical in the ability of Future Smiles to meet the needs of the students. The results were resoundingly positive: 78% of the teachers indicated that they were “very satisfied” with the program.

Future SmilesAlthough there was a lot of pushback from teachers initially (especially for programs such as the “Brush at Lunch,” in which teachers are actually the ones doing the legwork), the evaluation shows that the educational staff has been able to see increases in students’ ability to pay attention in class and decrease out-of-seat time that might have otherwise occurred had dental problems continued to go unchecked. They also noted satisfaction in participating with their students in reading oral health books, such as Sugar Bug Doug, and other fun, engaging activities.

Future SmilesWe are extremely pleased with the results of the evaluation and the very helpful feedback from the teachers themselves. One theme in particular was telling: teachers want to better know our dental hygienist staff. So we’re dragging them out of the clinics more often to have a bite in the teachers’ lounges! Simple modifications like this only further strengthen the oral health partnership between Future Smiles and Clark County schools, resulting in more smiles all around.

Don’t forget to ask one of your most important stakeholders: how are we doing? You may be surprised what you get back in return!


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