BENNINGTON >> On Thursday, the Bennington Oral Health Coalition and Mount Anthony Union Middle School held a ribbon-cutting to celebrate the re-installation of a dental chair at the school.
After the Coalition's bid to adjust the level of fluoride in Bennington's water was defeated by voters last March, the group began holding meetings to discuss alternate ways to improve the dental health of Bennington citizens. At those meetings, participants brought up the dental chairs that had been used at both the middle and high schools.
In 2006, MAU High School principal Sue Maguire, who had been a large part of setting up the dental chair at Molly Stark Elementary School, which remains in operation to this day, established a chair at the high school using grant funding. A registered dental hygienist worked with the students to provide preventative services to students eligible for Medicaid. The program was considered very successful, and in 2009, additional grant funding was required, and a new chair was installed at the middle school. Some time after this, the hygienist retired, and the chairs were put into storage.
Oral Health Coalition member Lisa Kazazian, who introduced the speakers at the ribbon cutting, said that getting the chair active again had been possible because of many people, representing many groups. "It is truly an example of the community working together," she said.
"I didn't know what was starting just over a year ago, when you came to me to set up a meeting," said Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union Superintendent Jim Culkeen, "but after seeing the enthusiasm from everyone in that group, I couldn't say no and not get more involved."
MAUMS principal Tim Payne said that he saw the chair in storage when he first toured the school, and was happy to see it being put to good use. "Obviously, there's a need in this community for this service," he said, "I'm really excited to be a part of this." Payne said the Coalition and the school had done a screening of students earlier in the year, with the help of Nevin Lessard. That study showed 24 students in need of immediate care, and 82 who were marked as needing further evaluation. They will now reach out to families whose children were noted to be in need of care, to try to get them involved in the program. The hope is to start the program with 50 children, and expand it from there.
Mary Lou Chicote will be the dental hygienist for the program, and will visit the school on Tuesdays and Thursdays to examine participating students' teeth. She will be able to refer students to Dr. Tyler Carmack of the Bennington Dental Center, the dentist overseeing the program.
"Our main objective is to improve the dental health of students here at the school, and give a positive impression of dentists," said Chicote, "We want them to want to come to the dentist!"