Alexandria, VA

Going to the dentist can be expensive, and a grant from Dominion Energy will help Alexandria kids keep those pearly whites glistening.

Dominion’s charitable foundation announced this week that it awarded $1.6 million to more than 200 organizations in 13 states, including $15,000 to the Alexandria City Public Schools Wellness on Wheels (WOW) bus, a mobile dental unit that provides primary dental care to students in schools across the city.

“Preventive oral care is not just about your teeth. It’s critical to overall physical, emotional and mental health,” said former ACPS Health Services Coordinator, Dr. Barbara Nowak. “A cavity left untreated is a dangerous thing. It’s an infection in your tooth and if you don’t treat it, it can cause additional damage — especially because of the proximity to the brain. It can lead to an abscess caused by a bacterial infection and this, left untreated, could be life threatening.”

The WOW Bus, which has been operating since 2014, is managed by Alexandria nonprofit Neighborhood Health. Over the course of 70 days during the 2018-2019 school year, licensed dental professionals treated 568 ACPS students, according to the school system. There were also 956 procedures, which include extractions, fillings, cleanings and root canals.

“We are pleased to support our nonprofit partners as they work to make positive impacts in our communities,” said Hunter A. Applewhite, president of the Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation, in a statement. “These grants are intended to support the most basic needs — food, shelter and medical care for our neighbors in need.”

Earlier this month, students at the T.C. Williams High School International Academy were treated by the mobile clinic for the first time. Among them was Gabriel, a Guatemalan student who had not received dental care in two years.

“The last time I went to the dentist, I had to miss my last block and I missed some school work that I had to make up,” Gabriel told ACPS Express. “I don’t like to miss my classes. In Guatemala it’s expensive to pay for school, but here it is free.”

ACPS currently provides WOW Bus services to John Adams Elementary School, William Ramsay Elementary School, Patrick Henry Elementary School, James K. Polk Elementary School, Cora Kelly School, Mount Vernon Community School, Samuel Tucker Elementary School, Jefferson Houston School, Ferdinand T. Day School and both T.C. Williams High School campuses.

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