Frisbee Memorial Hospital in Rochester, N.H., sees a healthy smile as the beginning of a healthier future for hundreds of youngsters in its communities.

Since 1999, the hospital’s school-based dental education program, Frisbie Smiles, has partnered with local schools to provide dental screenings and in-school dental services, like cleanings and sealants, to children in first, second and third grade.

Eleven public schools participate in the program, which includes four classroom visits focusing on health and nutritional information, along with the free dental screenings and other services. 

“We were seeing so many ailments that were related in some fashion to people’s dental health in our emergency department,” says hospital senior vice president Joseph Shields. “Rather than putting our resources toward restorative services for adults, we thought it would make better long-term sense to go upstream and develop prevention through education in the schools so the children don’t become the adults who are having the dental problems, which can lead to other health problems.”

Children qualify for Frisbie Smiles if they do not have a dentist or have not seen a dentist during the past 12 months. For the 2014-2015 school year, the program provided dental health and nutrition lessons to 1,465 students. Under an agreement with the hospital, Goodwin Community Health, a federally qualified health center, provides follow-up dental services as needed.

Some 20% of those screened last year had untreated tooth decay, a 23% decline since 2003, according to Bambi Shorey, Frisbie Smiles’ dental education coordinator. Shorey has been with the program since its inception, and says there has been a steady decrease in the number of untreated tooth decay reported, as well an increase in the number of children receiving dental sealants.

“More children in our community are receiving dental care and finding dental homes,” she says. Her reward comes in “the smiles on the kids’ faces … and knowing that you’ve done something to help.”

Shields says the community appreciates the program and its healthy impact on kids. “The community knows it is making a difference,” he says. “We hear from the community all the time about Frisbee Smiles, and that’s why we do it.”   

Frisbie Smiles