Dentist and local foundation give free dental work to kids in ne

Dentist and local foundation give free dental work to kids in need

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Five-year-old Jibriel Koko learned what a visit to the dentist is all about when 6 News visited his school. Five-year-old Jibriel Koko learned what a visit to the dentist is all about when 6 News visited his school.
"The sad thing is, if we don't get that consent form back, signed consent form from a parent or guardian, I can't work on them. There's still a lot of kids running around these schools that need work and we can't work on them. That's pretty hard," Dr. Cla "The sad thing is, if we don't get that consent form back, signed consent form from a parent or guardian, I can't work on them. There's still a lot of kids running around these schools that need work and we can't work on them. That's pretty hard," Dr. Cla
The mobile dental lab looks like a semi-truck from the outside. The mobile dental lab looks like a semi-truck from the outside.

By LORI TUCKER
6 News Anchor

ALCOA (WATE) - Many more at-risk children are getting the dental care they need thanks to the generosity of a local foundation.

What looks like a semi-truck is actually a mobile dental lab that rolls right up to area schools.

Students in Blount County got some help from a retired dentist and the Elgin Foundation of Knoxville, which believes if a child has trouble with their teeth, they have trouble learning.

Five-year-old Jibriel Koko learned what a visit to the dentist is all about when 6 News visited his school.

The kindergartner at Alcoa Elementary School already had a mouthful of dental problems, and retired dentist Dr. Darrel Clabough was determined to fix them.

"What we're looking at here is rampant decay in these anterior teeth," Dr. Clabough as he examined the boy's mouth.

Jibriel was among the close to 1,000 children screened by Dr. Clabough and his staff over the last year, and he's among the 60 percent from the screenings now receiving much needed dental care in the newly-renovated mobile dental unit.

It's outfitted with everything a dental office needs. But instead of waiting and hoping for the kids to be brought to him, Dr. Clabough goes to them.

Even then, it's not easy getting the kids to come in.

"The sad thing is, if we don't get that consent form back, signed consent form from a parent or guardian, I can't work on them. There's still a lot of kids running around these schools that need work and we can't work on them. That's pretty hard," Dr. Clabough said.

Blount County schools have embraced the program.

"The school nurse's report that we have more kids absent in K-5 due to toothaches," said Lisa Williamson, a middle school counselor in Alcoa.

Dr. Clabough is working in conjunction with Knoxville's Elgin Foundation, which saw a real need in ten area counties and is trying to fill it.

"The dental program is just to get started with a healthy mouth, healthy life," said Tim Rogers with the foundation.

How bad is the problem of tooth decay among kids in Tennessee?

The Elgin Foundation says Tennessee's dental health is among the worst in the nation.

Tooth pain is the number one reason for emergency room visits here.

Many dentists don't accept Tenncare. That's part of the problem. Only half of kids on Tenncare get regular dental care.

But some whose parents have private insurance still suffer.

"There's routinely in that home someone just not taking an active role in providing dental care," Rogers said.

Jibriel left the dental office on wheels with a bright new smile, even if it did hurt just a little.

In the long run, this new addition to his health care will only help.

Currently, the Elgin Foundation has a dental program for kids in eight out of ten counties in our region it has identified with critical needs.

So far, Knox County has not signed on but Elgin says it's in the process of trying to establish a relationship.

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