Community collaboration builds dental success
Special to The Union
The Healthy Smiles mobile dental van is the result of what happens when you combine a dentist with a passion for community dentistry with a community clinic, and together they enlist the resources of First 5 of Nevada County and Patterson Dental Supply.
The mobile dental van is a Winnebago renovated with a hardwood floor, new cabinets, custom benches and tables for dental education stations, a video for children in the waiting area and a brand-new dental chair with the most sophisticated x-ray and digital diagnostic equipment available.
Three years ago, Dr. Becky Schultz joined Sierra Family Medical Clinic and the Nevada County Department of Health and Human Services in receiving a grant from the Sierra Health Foundation to “really make a difference” for children in need of dental care, and the Healthy Smiles Dental Program was born.
Since its inception, Schultz and dental assistant Elyssa Farabee have made regular visits to 15 Nevada County schools and served 1,900 children with 5,000 dental visits using portable equipment. Now, with a grant from First 5 of Nevada County and a donation of equipment and labor from Patterson Dental Supply, they can provide their services from a fully equipped mobile dental office.
“The van is amazing,” said Lindsey Dunckel, executive director of First Five of Nevada County, who attended the SFMC van open house last week. “We’re glad we could help.”
“I’m very passionate about this,” said Chris Nevarez, a sales representative from Patterson Dental, who comes from a family of six raised by a single mom who did not have access to adequate dental care. “I wanted to help kids who are in the position I was in, and I knew Dr. Schultz would need additional equipment. It makes me feel great to give back.”
Patterson staff members and their vendors came up with state-of-the-art digital equipment, software and an installation labor force that spent over 80 hours on the van to assure the very best diagnostic support available valued at over $40,000.
“Healthy Smiles has been such an incredibly valuable program for our students,” said Joan Little, district superintendent and Grizzly Hill School principal. “It’s made a tremendous difference for the children who did have dental need, and it gave parents a heightened awareness of their need and responsibilities as parents to check their children’s dental health. I’m very grateful for the program. Dr. Schultz is fantastic.”
The grant from Sierra Health Foundation expires in June, but the program will continue to be operated by Sierra Family Medical Clinic in the future. The purpose of the current program at 15 designated Nevada County Schools is to provide screenings, some preventive care and referrals to local dentists and clinics. If you are interested in signing up for the children’s Healthy Smiles program, contact your school office.
Schultz said that 20 percent of Grizzly Hill School students complained of dental pain when the program started, and now that’s down to only 6 percent. Studies show that early detection and treatment of dental problems can save children from suffering from more serious dental issues later on.
“We know now that dental cavities are an infectious disease problem, so by treating the individual, we actually help the whole community by eradicating the underlying cause,” said Dr. Peter Van Houten, SFMC’s founder and medical director.
Dental care is a key component in Sierra Family Medical Clinic’s “integrated health care” model that treats patients for medical, behavioral health and dental care all in one location and refers patients among the three areas, often in the same day. Its motto is “caring for you as family” and its collaboration with Schultz reinforces this theme in the form of community outreach.
• 15301 Tyler Foote Rd. Nevada City
• 530 292-3478;info@sierra
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