Flora appreciates what Southwest Smile Makers has meant for her two children. Her 9-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter recently had their teeth cleaned and a few cavities filled as well as sealants to protect their back molars.
San Juan Basin Health began this program 10 years ago after recognizing that accessible, affordable dental care for children wasnt available in our community. Since then, Southwest Smile Makers has grown in scope and in having an independent office of its own in The Commons building. It continues to provide children in Archuleta, La Plata and San Juan counties with dental care through both in-school and in-office visits.
Since September, Smile Makers has screened, applied fluoride varnish and placed sealants for 350 children in five schools. It will visit six other elementary schools in the first part of this year.
But what about the parents?
While Flora was sitting quietly in the waiting room for her children, she was suffering with a toothache. She needed a filling to prevent additional decay and root damage. However, Flora has no dental insurance. Even if she had Medicaid, fillings and dental preventive care are not covered. Medicaid patients can get one tooth pulled at a time, but only under emergency situations.
Southwest Smile Makers sought a way to provide one day a week of dental care to adults. People with Medicaid or with no insurance can receive some relief from needless pain. If adults have no insurance, they can qualify for La Plata Cares and be treated at Southwest Smile Makers on a sliding scale. Currently, theyre providing extractions and fillings.
Jacquelene Brisson-Stahl, clinic coordinator, said they found through speaking to parents of children that many of them had their own dental-health problems and that private practices arent able to accept adult Medicaid for dental care. She says many people who dont have any other options end up in the emergency room because of dental pain. So in early December, the clinic started seeing adults on Thursdays. In just their first two weeks, Southwest Smile Makers dentist saw 14 clients. One was Floras brother.
Unfortunately, there still are major unmet needs for adult dental care. These include crowns and dentures, which are not covered by Medicaid or Medicare.
Right now, we want to get the word out that were able to help alleviate some pain and prevent more serious suffering and infections that can impact an individuals overall health, their family and work life, Brisson-Stahl said.
Flora and her brother certainly are glad they found out and feel fortunate to have benefited from Southwest Smile Makers new expansion of services to adults.
For more information or to make an appointment, call 385-4480.
To apply for La Plata CARES card, visit The Family Center or San Juan Basin Health or go to www.laplatacares.org. CARES is a relatively new program for La Plata County residents to receive health and dental services on a sliding scale.
Jane Looney is the communications director for the San Juan Basin Health Department.