Public Health, PA host free dental and medical clinic for Harnett County children

Nearly 100 underserved children from Harnett County received free dental and medical care on Saturday, Feb. 2, at a clinic organized by Campbell University’s Public Health and Physician Assistant programs.


The one-day event set up twelve dental chairs in the Harnett County Commons Area in Lillington, N.C., providing free exams, cleanings, sealants, and fluoride treatments for children who do not have dental insurance or receive Medicaid funding.


The free clinic was held in conjunction with the American Dental Association’s Give Kids a Smile initiative which addresses the need of dental care for underserved pediatric populations across the country. Nearly 1,750 GKAS events will be held nationally this year, including the clinic in Harnett County.


“We were the only county in our surrounding area that did not have a Give Kids a Smile type event,” said Dr. Tina Tseng, chair of Campbell’s Public Health program. “As a new program, we were really happy to host this event for the first time, and help meet a huge need in our community.”


In a recent report by the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Dental Campaign, North Carolina was in the bottom five states for school-based dental sealant treatment programs. “Sealants, a protective coating for teeth that prevents cavities, along with regular cleanings and fluoride varnishes, give every child the best chance of growing up with healthy teeth. That’s a major reason why we wanted to do this,” said Dr. Ray Tseng, an organizer and initiator of the clinic. Ray is a pediatric dentist in Cary, and one of five dentists who volunteered at the event.  


The clinic was a collaborative effort with High House Pediatric Dentistry of Cary, Dentalworks Pediatric Dentistry of Fayetteville, Central Carolina Community College, NC Oral Health Section, Harnett County Health Department, and the North Carolina Dental Society’s Missions of Mercy. Over 100 students from five universities volunteered, and an estimated value of $60,000 in dental services was provided, including placement of more than 250 sealants.


In addition to dental care, Campbell’s Public Health and PA students provided medical screenings and educational programs covering nutrition and oral hygiene.


“We had six health education and assessment stations set-up,” said Kristina Wolfe, a first-year public health student who helped coordinate the event. “Families were led by a volunteer to each station as well as the dental services station.”


The clinic provided a unique combination of inter-professional care, as students and providers in the fields of dentistry, public health, physician assistant practice and pharmacy partnered together for a day of service.


“In terms of training our students this has turned out to be a great collaborative effort. It really showed them how they can work with other health disciplines to improve patient outcomes,” said Tina.


As PA and public health professionals are becoming vital players in oral health prevention, the event gave students innovative, real-world training on how to promote regular dental care, and prevent dental disease to help meet North Carolina's rural health needs.


“The PA curriculum doesn’t extensively cover pediatric oral health,” said Tina. “Through the clinic we’re not only providing a service for the community, but we taught our PA students how to provide fluoride varnish which they will be able to do in their future practice, especially in rural areas like Harnett County.”


Campbell’s Public Health and PA programs already have plans to host “Give Harnett Kids a Smile” again next year. They hope to expand the dental and medical services to provide the community with more access to preventative care.


Photo: Thomas Notto, first-year PA student at Campbell, learns how to apply fluoride varnish during the free dental and medical clinic in Harnett County on Feb. 2.