SALEM, N.H. — Walter Haigh Elementary School students had the opportunity to brighten their smiles yesterday when Dr. Adam Wolff volunteered to give them free screenings. Today, students who cannot have regular dentist visits will receive follow-up treatments.

All students who qualified for the program in first through third grades, about 100 students, were offered the screenings, school nurse Tara Hayes said. About 55 students returned with signed permission forms and participated. Even students who chose not to partake in the screenings and treatments enjoyed presentations on oral health.

"There was a separate presentation for each grade," Hayes said.

"The kids really liked it. They got to watch each other get their teeth checked. And they all got a free toothbrush."

The program is a continuation of a pilot program that took place at Lancaster Elementary School last year, screening 88 students and treating 34.

It was organized by Greater Derry Oral Health Collaborative Corp., which received a statewide community impact grant for $11,432 this year from the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation.

"The program our grant supports will help to ensure that kids in Salem get good routine preventative oral health care," said Deborah Schachter, senior program officer for the foundation.

"A healthy mouth is a part of overall good health for kids; a child with a toothache cannot focus on learning."

Hope Saltmarsh, executive director of the collaborative, said the grant and efforts by Salem school officials and dentists will allow the program to assist an estimated 420 students with screenings, and 145 students with treatment in all six Salem elementary schools.

"Our goal is to do whatever we can to help parents get dental care for their kids," Saltmarsh said.

"We'd really like to see all the kids find a dental home."

Dental care can be a luxury for some families in a tough economy.

"I hope it will continue," Hayes said. "The program finds a lot of kids that fall through the cracks, especially in this economy."

Salem's Lancaster, Haigh and Soule elementary schools will participate in the program in February.

North Salem, Fisk and Barron elementary schools will participate in May.

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