Bringing Smiles Back to Schools

June 15, 2023
Two hygienists clean teeth in a school-based setting

Hygienists clean the teeth of local high school students right at their school. OHP has seven permanent dental sites at schools in Brown County. For other schools, the team will set up in libraries, locker rooms, hallways or wherever there is enough space

After four years of school closures and other restrictions because of the pandemic, Oral Health Partnership (OHP) was back in schools this year consistently and full-time with 2,772 kids treated at 52 schools, an increase of over 36% in students from the 2021/2022 school year.

“The pandemic upset many regular schedules, including routine dental care,” said Julie Paavola, OHP Executive Director. “This school year we’ve been getting back to normal numbers and making sure all kids are getting the care they need. Our goal is to get everyone back to routine dental care.”

Why dental care in schools?

School-based dental care is a pillar of the OHP mission, having treated kids at school since 2005. In-school dental care removes barriers to care like transportation and work schedules, kids lose less time in the classroom by visiting their dentist at school and it reinforces good dental habits by seeing a dental team member every six months. For some kids, the School-Based Program is the only time they see a dental professional and others have dental issues that need more treatment than can be done at schools.

“Sometimes kids are seen in our school program but need care beyond what we can provide at schools because of equipment or the number of treatments needed to complete their care,” said Paavola. “Our team then follows up, getting kids into the clinic and taking care of any dental problems they might be having. If OHP isn’t seeing kids at schools, these kids could fall through the cracks.”

Routine dental care helps kids be in less pain, decreases the number of days they miss school and adds to their self-esteem. Kids with healthy smiles talk more, have fewer struggles eating and smile with confidence.

To prepare for the school year, in August OHP attended almost 20 back-to-school orientations in order to talk to parents about its services and collect forms that allow OHP to treat the kids in school. Any child under 19 years of age that is on Medicaid or uninsured and qualifies for free or reduced lunch at school is eligible for OHP’s services.

The 2022/2023 School-Based program was supported by Nancy & Scott Armbrust, Jack & Engrid Meng and the David L. & Rita E. Nelson Family Fund within the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region with additional support from the WDA Foundation.

Oral Health Partnership is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to improving the oral health of underserved children in the Brown County community by providing dental services and education. Through five clinic locations, school-based and hospital programs, they provide more than 11,000 economically disadvantaged children dental care annually. To learn more about OHP, visit