(COLLEGE STATION, TX) — South Texas for years has suffered from a shortage of physicians and dentists in rural and underserved areas. Indeed, even though there are several practicing pediatric dentists in the region, their number is insufficient to meet children’s dental needs.

As a result, the Texas A&M Health Science Center Coastal Bend Health Education Center is forming a partnership with dentist William Tinnell, D.D.S., the Brooks County Independent School District and the Brooks County Commissioners’ Court to develop a dental screening program for the county’s children. Dr. Tinnell is the only dentist in Falfurrias and Brooks County.

The initial goal of the Brooks County Dental Disease Prevention Program is to maintain the oral health and intact teeth of consenting students ages 6-8 by utilizing a mobile dental van from the HSC Baylor College of Dentistry. The program eventually will be extended to children ages 10-12.

As planned, the mobile van will be located on the Brooks County ISD campus, and wireless communication will be established with Dr. Tinnell’s dental office. A dental hygienist in the van and supervised by the dentist will screen students and establish individual clinics and radiographic records. The two will then decide which students can be treated on-site and which ones need referral to his dental office.

Afterward, assembled clinical information, images and X-rays will be electronically forwarded and reviewed by Dr. Tinnell. Oral hygiene, nutritional instructions, fluoride applications and sealant therapy will be delivered by the hygienist in the mobile van. Emergency procedures (such as extractions, infections, tooth trauma), restorations and malocclusions will be referred to Dr. Tinnell for appropriate care or further referrals.

Each oral screening and preventative session is anticipated to take about 20 minutes, and approximately eight students per day will be handled. Operating two days a week, it is expected to take from Feb. 9 through May 18 for the mobile van to screen all eligible Brooks County children.

With these services, Brooks County Dental Disease Prevention Program officials are confident it will provide optimal access to dental care by school-children, timely intervention and delivery of proper and effective preventive oral procedures, and maintained tooth quality and extended tooth longevity. The program also will require less transportation to the dental office, less time off from class and less expense for oral care.

Among those responsible for instituting the new dental program are Joe Garcia Brooks County judge, and Brooks County ISD officials – Joe Trevino, superintendent; Arturo Garcia, technology director; and Lupita DeLuna, head nurse.

Parents in the Brooks County ISD needing more information on the dental program can contact the Superintendent’s Office at (361) 325-8001.

The Texas A&M Health Science Center provides the state with health education, outreach, and research. Its five components located in communities throughout Texas are Baylor College of Dentistry, the College of Medicine, the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, the Institute of Biosciences and Technology and the School of Rural Public Health.

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