Ty Swenson
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn shoulders up with Madison Middle School 7th graders Walter Robert Howell II (left) and George Olebar, who have both had free dental work done at their school. McGinn announced an expansion of in-school dental programs on June 4, paid for with Families and Education Levy funds.

Madison MS serves as Mayor’s platform to unveil student dental health plan

Your tax dollars could mean a healthy smile and pain-free mouth for several Seattle students in coming years.

On June 4, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn visited Madison Middle School in West Seattle to announce $274,680 from Families and Education Levy funds will be used to set up onsite dental screening facilities at 11 Seattle schools next year. The selection of schools is still in the works, but the City, in partnership with Neighborcare (who will administer the care), is targeting schools with low-income student populations who could most benefit.

Madison was chosen as the site to unveil the program because they already have a dental facility up and running, acting as a pilot for Neighborcare to expand.

McGinn opened his remarks with a number of realities, including the fact that low-income students are far less likely to have access to dental care outside of school, and that researchers have found links between children living with tooth pain and declining school performance.

This program, he said, “is just another way in which we in the city can help support our kids and our families.”

Mark Secord, CEO of Neighborcare, said “There are some students who will never be able to get it together to go to a dental clinic and they don’t have a dental home, so it’s a way to get them started, improving their dental health.”

Dr. Marty Lieberman, Neighborcare’s dental director, said the goal in those schools chosen is “to make sure that no kid in our schools where we are working actually leaves the school year with tooth decay.”

To make that happen, Lieberman said they plan to implement a combination of screening and corrective work to alleviate existing dental problems along with education for students and their parents on how to take better care of one’s teeth. Dental equipment will be on-site at the schools, so work can be done right then and there.

Since Madison already has a dental program up and running, two students from the school who have taken advantage of free care were pulled out of class to meet the mayor.

“It really helped, I mean, ever since I got (dental work done, including fillings) my teeth were really, really bugging me and so now I came here and it literally just went away,” Madison 7th grader Walter Robert Howell II told the Herald.

“I used to never floss because I thought it would never really help me at all,” he added. “They really showed me that it can actually get all the gunk out of your teeth and it can actually help a lot so I’ve been trying to floss more, floss more, floss more and it’s really improving my teeth.”

Howell said he had only been to the dentist a couple of times in his life prior to getting work done at school.

7th grader George Olebar agreed with Howell’s synopsis, saying, “They made my teeth better and they taught me how to floss.”

Both students said they are more confident in their smiles … not a bad thing for a youngster nearing the age where girlfriends, boyfriends, dances and love notes (or wait, love “texts” to be current) become a teenage fixation.

“This new investment builds on the successful health programs that have been part of the Families and Education Levy since its inception in 1990,” McGinn said. “The Planning Committee that recommended the Levy renewal considered how we should fill additional health needs of our students. I want to thank them for recognizing the important role of dental health in making sure our children are free of pain and can take advantage of the educational opportunities available to them.”

The program is expected to be in place over the next six years (at least), with around $1.75 million in funding over that time.

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