The first day of Enumclaw's Mobile Dental Program Thursday saw seven patients with a variety of different reasons for needing to see a dentist, but they all have one thing in common: without this free service, they would otherwise not be able to pay for the dental care they received.
Among the patients was Amber Thurman. Thanks to state cuts, she said, "My kids are still covered, but I'm not."
Her appointment today was a general check-up, following a tooth extraction she had last August. That was the last time she saw a dentist, she said.
It was funding provided by the Enumclaw Regional Healthcare Foundation, along with significant contributions from Mutual of Enumclaw, that made it possible for the huge mobile dental van to park in the lot next to the Chamber of Commerce and begin seeing patients on the Plateau.
Local leaders realized there was a need for free dental services in the area a while ago and it was a genuinely collaborative effort to make the Mobile Dental Program into a reality, said organizer Laurel Bailey of .
In fact, Bailey credits Dr. Wendy Walker, the local dentist who volunteered her time Thursday to see all seven patients, with the idea.
Walker had previously volunteered with the SmileMobile, a similar type of service that treated mostly low-income children. In collaboration with the Enumclaw Regional Healthcare Foundation, who at the time had been organizing workships to identify the dental needs in the community, Walker had proposed a mobile dental clinic for Enumclaw.
Grants were given but the idea didn't really take off until Bailey came on board to run the organizational end of the clinic, Walker said.
The foundation put up $30,000 in support of the program that will run one full year. Organizers hope to have the van serve a second location in Buckley as well, as soon as this summer. Medical Teams International provided the van along with clinic manager Denise Folk who will be with the van each month when it returns, said Bailey.
"It's a fully equipped dental van with everything you'd see in a regular dentist's office," Folk said and can do procedures including fillings, exams and extractions.
However, the volunteer dentists won't be doing major work such as root canals or crowns though if those are needed as follow-up care, Folk will do her best to help patients with referrals to find either low cost or free services elsewhere.
To help streamline the appointment-making process, Bailey said that if people are wanting to sign their children up for a service, she might first refer them to Lindquist Dental Care in Buckley which also offers a sliding fee scale based on income and family size for those that are uninsured or under insured.
The mission of the program is to provide free dental care to low-income children and adults, the homeless and migrant workers who lack insurance or a realistic way to pay for treatment. Typically, Bailey said she asks the patients for some basic information including home address, a phone number and their income level.
More Dentists Needed
Moving forward, the Mobile Dental Program aims to be available on the second Thursday of every month through April 2012.
Three more area dentists have signed up to volunteer in subsequent months, but more are needed and the number of professionals available will determine how many patients can be seen, Bailey said.
For example, since Walker was the sole dentist working on Thursday, she was able to see seven patients. Bailey explained she'd normally be able to see eight but a special schedule cut one slot out. With two dentists, 16 patients could be seen. Or if one dentist and one hygienist signed on, eight patients could be seen for dental work and eight more for teeth cleanings. The clinic, without a hygienist, does not offer teeth cleanings, Bailey said.
At minimum, if only one dentist were available for the next few months, then appointments will have already been booked into August, Bailey said.
Frequently Asked Questions for Prospective Dentists:
Q: What kinds of dental services will I provide on the van?
A: Only URGENT dental needs; x-rays for assessments, fillings, and extractions.
Q: Am I responsible for scheduling and tracking patients?
A: No; Enumclaw Youth and Family Services will coordinate all scheduling and services.
Q: Can I bring my own hygienist or assistant?
A: Yes! Please bring an assistant. In addition, the van will be staffed with a dental assistant (clinic site manager) familiar with the lay-out of the van.
Q: Who is responsible for arranging follow-up care or emergency services after a procedure?
A: When follow-up care is needed (i.e. root canals and crowns, etc.), Medical Teams International's clinic site manager will arrange the follow-up care for the patient to see one of their specialists.
Frequently Asked Questions for Prospective Patients:
Q: I haven't been to the dentist in years and I don't know what kind of dental care I need; should I make an appointment?
A: Yes! Our dentists will give you a check-up and let you know what kind of care you need.
Q: What kinds of dental services are provided on the mobile clinic?
A: X-rays and exams, fillings, and extractions. Our dentists can make low-cost referrals for your follow-up care as well.
Q: Can I schedule a routine cleaning with the mobile dental clinic?
A: Please call to enquire about cleanings and other preventative care.
Q: Who is the dentist that will be working the mobile clinic?
A: Local dentists volunteer their time to the clinic. There will be a different dentist every month.
Q: How will I get follow-up care or emergency services after a procedure on the mobile clinic?
A: When follow-up care is needed (i.e. root canals and crowns, etc.), the mobile clinic dentists will refer you to a low-cost specialist.
Dental Van Dates Coming Up
May 12: Dr. Scott Decker
January 12, 2012
February 9, 2012
March 8, 2012
April 12, 2012
For more information about volunteering or making an appointment, contact Laurel Bailey at 360-825-4586 or email@example.com.