PARKERSBURG - With one year under its belt, the Mid-Ohio Valley Smiles for Life Adult Dental Screening and Referral Program has worked with nearly 400 people.
The program began last summer in an effort to aid low-income residents of the area with their dental needs, said Mary Beth Shea, oral health coordinator for the MOVHD.
"This is not a regular private practice," Shea said. "We don't do the work, we do preliminary work-ups so the dentist the patient is sent to knows what is going on and what we recommend."
Photo by Jolene Craig
A small room in the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department has been converted to a dental room for the adult dental program “Smiles for Life.”
The program is based out of the health department's Sixth Street offices with a remodeled X-ray and dental room to allow the four staff members the opportunity to fully access the patient to decide what they need done.
"We do not do the work here, but work with 26 different dentists who donate their services and time," Shea said. "This way they can help out in their own space, with their own equipment and staff."
While the program is for low-income adults, there is a nominal fee of $15 to provide for the screening, oral health education and supplies while also scheduling for the most needed treatments.
"Someone not being able to pay the fee will not be turned away," Shea added. "But the average patient receives $200 worth of treatment for their $15."
From September 2011 through May 2012, $190,843 worth of services have been donated.
Clients will be charged for necessary X-rays and necessary treatment on a sliding scale according to Federal Poverty Level guidelines and proof of income is required.
These services are open to all residents older than 18 years in the MOVHD's six-county coverage area, including Wood, Calhoun, Pleasants, Ritchie, Roane and Wirt counties.
"We are trying to cut down on emergency room trips for dental pain and problems," Shea said. "Along with that we are trying to reduce the number of patients with dental pain and infection as well as provide a safety net for the adults working who are still under the poverty line and in need of dental treatment."
Shea said 96 percent of the patients are at zero percent of the poverty line.
"I am shocked at the poverty we have in this area," she added.
The program sees between 14-16 clients a week for referrals to area dentists.
"The one thing we will not tolerate is absenteeism," Shea said. "If you don't show up for an appointment in our office or with one of the dentists without calling first, you're out of the program.
"We are so busy and have so many people on the waiting list that we can't wait for someone who does not show up," she said.
Fees generated through the program help sustain it.
For more information, contact the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department at 304-485-7374.