Robyn Kibler, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Dental Clinic

    The Columbia St. Mary’s Smart Smiles program is the largest school-based oral health program in the state.

    The program, run by Robyn Kibler, clinic manager at Milwaukee-based The St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Dental Clinic, provides preventative care to thousands of at-risk Milwaukee children each year and also arranges for clinical treatment—free of charge—when needed.

    “The goal of the program is to provide children good access to quality dental care,” Kibler said. “With the help of Columbia St. Mary’s we provide preventative care, cleanings, fluoride treatments and dental sealants, in a school-based setting.”

    In 2013, the program provided treatment to 6,852 children at 42 Milwaukee public, private and charter schools.
    Seton Dental Clinic provided follow-up care to 564 children.

    According to Kibler, the program provided sealants for nearly 4,000 students and prevented approximately $865,144 in future dental procedures.

    This year, the program will serve nearly 60 schools in the Milwaukee area, and is projected to serve 8,300 students, Kibler said.

    Thanks to the Smart Smiles program, Kibler and the Seton Dental Clinic, The Pew Charitable Trusts named Wisconsin a national leader in providing dental care to children.

    There’s more work to be done, though. Pew also ranked Wisconsin nearly last in providing dental access to children with Medicaid, due mostly to low provider reimbursements.

    The Smart Smiles program and Seton Dental Clinic must fill that void.

    “The mouth is connected to the body. Studies have proven that good oral health can reduce the future risk of heart disease and even complications in diabetes. There are even correlations with periodontal disease and premature births,” she said.

    Dental pain is the leading cause of school absenteeism, and even more children go to school while suffering through severe mouth pain, Kibler said.

    “Not a lot of learning is taking place if children are too focused on the pain they are feeling in their mouth,” she said.

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