It’s National Children’s Dental Health Month, and our community has a reason to smile.
Since opening in July, Axis Health System’s nonprofit Oral Health Clinic in Durango has had 1,066 appointments and served 521 adults and children who previously did not have access to dental care – and the clinic is planning to expand soon.
Axis Health System, a regional health care nonprofit, took over the operation of the dental clinic from San Juan Basin Public Health on July 18. As with all Community Health Center sites, the Oral Health Clinic helps underserved families who are uninsured or on Medicaid, and offers a sliding-fee scale to those who qualify. The clinic’s director, dentist Kristine Hynes, said the first seven months of operation have been a big success.
“We are making a huge impact in people’s lives, and educating entire families on healthy habits,” she said. “I think it’s important for the public to know that we’re here. We can be a resource for them if they feel like they don’t have anywhere to go.”
Hynes said people are finding out about the clinic through word of mouth, and the practice is “busting at the seams” from the high demand. The small office is located in the Commons Building along Camino del Rio in Durango. It has just enough space for two operatories (dental chairs), and a staff of four: Hynes, an assistant, a hygienist and a receptionist who is being trained to assist with dental care.
Axis Health System is addressing the increased need in two ways. First, they are working to move to a larger space and expand to four operatories with additional staff. Hynes said moving to a bigger space will allow the staff to work more efficiently and handle more emergency needs.
Second, next month AHS will add one operatory and a dental hygienist at La Plata Integrated Healthcare in Durango. This addition will allow routine screenings and cleanings for patients who have established a dental plan at the Oral Health Clinic. LPIH currently offers primary care, counseling, substance use treatment and other health services and support. Adding preventive dental care to the menu of options at LPIH is in alignment with the AHS mission of treating the whole person in one location.
Karla Sluis is a spokesperson for Axis Health System, a nonprofit that serves five counties at nine locations in Southwest Colorado.