Mobile clinics to provide dental care

Thursday, October 11, 2007

A new mobile dental clinic provided by Jordan Valley Community Health Center, of Springfield, will be visiting several Barry County school districts this year.

"We have several patients from this area that visit our clinic in Springfield," said Tina Monroe, Jordan Valley Dental Clinic manager. "With gas prices so high we felt this might be a service that would help the parents and ultimately benefit the kids also."

The mobile dental clinic is currently serving students at the Southwest R-V School District. Later this month, the unit will also visit Purdy and Wheaton.

"When students visit the mobile clinic, they are out of class from 45 minutes to an hour," said Monroe. "If they visit our clinic in Springfield, those students lose half a day or more class time traveling to our clinic."

Mobile dental services are available to students in kindergarten through 12th grade who qualify for Medicaid or MC+. Parents must fill out a medical history and permission form before their child receives dental care.

A dentist and two dental assistants will be working out of the mobile unit, which is capable of providing a full range of dental services, including exams, X-rays, oral hygiene instruction, cleaning, fluoride treatments, fillings and extractions. The mobile clinic dentist will also be able to refer students to Jordan Valley's dental clinic in Springfield.

The mobile dental clinic will be serving Southwest School District students Oct. 8 through Oct. 11. The mobile unit will visit Purdy from Oct. 22 to Oct. 25 and Wheaton from Oct. 29 to Nov. 1.

The Cassville and Exeter school districts are also considering hosting the Jordan Valley Mobile Dental Clinic later this year.

"The goal of this program is to make sure Barry County children have access to all health services," said Kathleen King, Barry County Health Department administrator. "There are not a lot of dental providers that accept Medicaid and MC+ in this area. This is a way for these children to receive dental services close to home."

In February, area students could have a second opportunity to receive dental care locally. Ozark Tri-County Health Care Consortium, Inc., (OTC) has received a $25,532 grant from the Robert and Frances Chaney Family Foundation that will fund equipment and supplies for a mobile dental clinic that will visit Barry County.

"The dental needs are tremendous in Barry County, and the mobile unit will allow us to get into areas of the county and reach children who might not otherwise receive dental services," said Don McBride, OTC executive director.

According to a poll conducted by OTC, 40 percent of survey respondents in Barry County had untreated dental decay. In addition, 33 percent of respondents had at least one tooth in need of extraction, 40 percent needed basic cleaning and 77 percent needed a dental check-up.

The survey also indicated that 87 percent of respondents had no dental insurance. As a result, 25 percent of the respondents had not received dental care for seven years or longer and another 27.8 percent had not received care for over three years.

Survey data also indicated that 52.5 percent of respondents had been unable to access dental care when they were experiencing pain. In addition to affordability, survey respondents indicated they had trouble finding a dentist who would accept their dental insurance or accept patients without insurance.

"Many smaller companies cannot afford to supply their employees with health insurance, let along dental insurance," said McBride. "The Medicaid reimbursement rates for private practice dentists are so low it's cost prohibitive for them to see Medicaid patients, and a couple of years ago, the state removed adults from the ability to receive dental services through Medicaid."

Over the next few months, OTC will be purchasing equipment, scheduling sites and dental staff and putting policies and procedures together for its mobile dental unit. OTC would like to see the mobile until operational sometime in February.

"Ideally, we'd like to make arrangements with schools to provide services," said McBride. "Since the children are already there, it eliminates transportation concerns."

Schools and other agencies will be contacted by a OTC representative about hosting the mobile dental unit.

"The uninsured and under-insured numbers in Barry County are very compelling," said McBride. "Since we are a health center that receives a federal grant to help these folks, we plan to double our efforts in creating more access for them. A big part of making that happen is to eventually expand to a larger facility that will house at least two medical practitioners and a full service dental practice."

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