The schools surrounding the Merrimack Valley region – Merrimack Valley Middle School (MVMS), Merrimack Valley High School (MVHS) and the Merrimack Valley Learning Center – include many children who lack dental care because their parents’ income is too high to qualify for Medicaid and too low to afford dental insurance. Only 53% of these adolescents (12-17 years old) had seen a dentist within the last 12 months, and 64% had untreated or active cavities, which is three times higher than the national average.
To support this underserved population, MVHS partnered with NHTI-Concord’s Community College to create the “NHTI Community Dental Clinic.” The Clinic is located within the Wellness Center in the nurse’s office at MVHS and includes two operatory rooms and an instrument processing center, which allows for the proper management of dental instruments. Because the NHTI Community Dental Clinic is onsite at MVHS, parents can sign their children up for services such as dental cleaning and fluoride treatments during the school day. Although the school year was shorted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 81 students, including those with special needs, received onsite treatment through this partnership.
The goal of the NHTI Community Dental Clinic is to continue providing essential oral healthcare services and education to the underserved populations in the Merrimack Valley while also creating a student-centered, hands-on teaching environment for NHTI’s dental hygiene students. The NHTI clinic has not only helped foster a greater appreciation for the importance of community-based public healthcare but has also provided NHTI students with a rewarding opportunity to experience the impact and importance of proper dental care in underserved communities.