From the community

Dental clinic changes in Washington County

Posted Aug. 14, 2013, at 8:58 a.m.
Last modified Sept. 28, 2013, at 1:48 p.m.

Over the past three years NYU College of Dentistry/Henry Schein Cares Global Student Outreach Program has come to Machias each spring and fall to provide no cost dental care. This year, the program will reduce its operation to one annual visit. NYUCD will return April 14-19, 2014, and there will not be a fall clinic.

There are several reasons for the change. The goal of the dental outreach program is to reduce tooth decay among children and that has happened. Hundreds of children have received comprehensive dental services to restore teeth affected by cavities. The reduction in tooth decay is also thanks to continued preventive efforts by the “Tooth Ferry” mobile dental van, operated by the Washington County Children’s Program- a division of United Cerebral Palsy, which provides fluoride and sealants for schools and Head Start programs in between the NYUCD visits. Oral Health Coordinator Teresa Alley says, “To go into a classroom and not see all that decay is a breathtaking improvement.” Prior to the dental outreach program, Alley had watched the decay among some of the children continue to worsen. They were in pain. For some, that pain was contributing to speech problems, behavior issues, poor eating habits and absences from school. Access to care was also an issue because there were so few dentists. There were long waiting lists for children covered by MaineCare and those without insurance frequently saw a dentist only for emergencies. The number of dentists in Washington County is now on the rise and so is the access to care. Many children now have dental homes, in part due to increased awareness of the importance of oral health, as well as referrals made by the program. Caring Hands of Maine in Ellsworth, a primary partner in the outreach program, has become a dental home for many of the children first seen by NYUCD.

Finances were also considered in the decision to reduce the dental outreach to one annual visit. To offer care to adults and children for one week through this program, it costs more than $50,000. The program was initiated thanks to a grant by the Northeast Delta Dental Foundation and Delta Dental Plan of Maine, and has been sustained primarily through providing care to children. Unfortunately, due to limitations on MaineCare dental coverage for adults, the program is not financially sustainable in caring for both adults and children. Northeast Delta Dental has and will continue to support the program in order to maintain NYUCD’s ability to offer care to everyone without charging patients. “We are thrilled at the success this collaborative program has had in reducing oral disease in children, raising awareness of oral health, and increasing access to dental care in Washington County. We do not believe that reducing our time in Machias to one week per year will negatively impact the oral health of the children we serve. NYUCD, WCCP, and Caring hands of Maine are committed to providing high quality dental care in Washington County at no cost to the patients next spring.”

In lieu of the fall dental outreach clinic, the Washington County Children’s Program “Tooth Ferry” van will be making an extra visit to schools and Head Start programs. Children will receive a check-up, fluoride varnish and sealants as necessary. Children with additional treatment needs will be referred to local providers, and comprehensive treatment will be offered at the dental outreach clinic in the spring.

The dental clinic is made possible by Delta Dental Plan of Maine, Northeast Delta Dental Foundation and Henry Schein Cares. The partners involved in the planning and implementation include NYU College of Dentistry, Caring Hands of Maine, Washington County Children’s Program, Washington Hancock Community Agency and Child and Family Opportunities.

For more information please contact Teresa Alley at 255-3426.

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