Back to School with a Healthy Smile:

Underserved Children Brush Up on Oral Health at El Centro de Corazón’s Checkup Party

Aug. 24, 2017, Houston—Everyone smile and say, “Back to school!” Approximately 50 underserved children and families from the Houston area got their smiles on at a back-to-school dental checkup party at El Centro de Corazón, a pediatric Dental Home for low income children. Patients received dental exams and cleanings, learned about proper home dental care and posed for back-to-school photos.

El Centro was recently awarded a national Access to Care Grant from Healthy Smiles, Healthy Children: The Foundation of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (HSHC). The HSHC grant makes it possible for El Centro to provide low-cost dental care to hundreds of children who would otherwise go without. HSHC works to ensure that every child, regardless of financial means, has a Dental Home where they receive consistent, compassionate oral care.

“Getting a back-to-school dental checkup is a ritual for many families. But for many others in Houston and across the country, dental care is out of reach and that has a negative impact on children’s school performance,” said Dr. Courtney Alexander, a pediatric dentist from San Antonio and HSHC national spokesperson. “The work that El Centro de Corazón is doing—not just today, but every single day—helps children start and stay on the same positive path as other children who can afford regular dental visits.”

Dr. Heather Dent, Dental Director at El Centro de Corazón, agrees that oral care is an important for school success. “Children with poor oral health miss more days of school, have difficulty concentrating and often have trouble socializing. Those who cannot afford a healthy smile really do suffer in school,” said Dent. “Today’s back-to-school event highlights the connection between good oral care and a positive school experience.”

Bridging the Oral Health Gap

Despite the fact that dental disease is preventable, tooth decay is increasing and has become epidemic among the youngest children in the U.S. Children among low-income and minority families have a higher incidence of oral health issues.

Financial, time and other constraints limit access to care. Many low-income families do not have dental insurance or money to pay for dental visits. In addition, many working parents are unable to take time off during the day to take their children to the dentist.

“El Centro de Corazón and other HSHC grantees have developed innovative ways to break down barriers to dental care for underserved children. Helping to get children ready for school is just one of those ways,” said Dr. Joseph Castellano, a pediatric dentist from Laredo and AAPD President-Elect. “We are honored to work with El Centro de Corazón to help children get started on a great school year and lifetime of opportunity.”

About El Centro de Corazón:

Serving Houston’s East End community since 1994, El Centro de Corazón is an accomplished Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) that offers a comprehensive range of quality health care services for underserved children and adults, which include medical, dental, and behavioral health, at its three health center locations (Magnolia Health Center, Eastwood Health Center, and the John S. Dunn Health Center). El Centro also provides primary care services at its Southeast Health Center, which is located in the outpatient facility of The Harris Center for Mental Health & IDD. El Centro is recognized by the National Committee for Quality Assurance as a Patient Centered Medical Home – Level 1 at its John S. Dunn Health Center. In 2016, El Centro provided direct patient care to 12,032 impoverished children and adults for a total of 47,716 patient visits. To learn more, visit

About Healthy Children, Healthy Smiles:

Healthy Children, Healthy Smiles: The Foundation of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry is the largest national dentist-led foundation dedicated to children’s oral health. The charitable giving arm of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), HSHC has given or committed more dollars since 2010 to help children than any other dental charity. Since 2010 HSHC has donated more than $4.5 million to support access to care initiatives that have provided Dental Homes to more than 320,000 children in 32 states, plus the District of Columbia. To learn more, visit