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Charter School Students Sink Their Teeth Into Oral Hygiene

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Knowledge Is Power charter school (KIPP DC) student Jailyn Herndon at the new Kids Smiles dental clinic in Southeast.
Jessica Gould
Knowledge Is Power charter school (KIPP DC) student Jailyn Herndon at the new Kids Smiles dental clinic in Southeast.

By Jessica Gould

Tooth decay causes students to miss more than 51 million hours of school every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Now one D.C. charter school is on a mission to boost educational outcomes by improving dental health.

KIPP D.C. fifth grader Jailyn Herndon says she can't remember the last time she went to the dentist.

"I haven't been in a long time," she says.

And there's a reason for that. Herndon lives in Southeast, D.C., where dental services are scarce.

"Our kids were not going to the dentist. We knew that...There weren't places for them to go," says KIPP D.C. President Allison Fansler.

That's why, Fansler says, KIPP decided to tear down the liquor store next to the school and build a dental office instead.

"For us, having a dental clinic so close by, that our kids can pop over...and not disrupt an entire morning of their schooling if they just need a little, quick visit -- that's hugely important to us so they can be ready...to learn and be the students we want them to be," she says.

Herndon says she's already started brushing up on oral health.

"...brushing three times a day and don't eat that much candy," she advises.

KIPP has partnered with the nonprofit Kids Smiles to run the clinic. It has its grand opening Friday.

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