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Community Care Clinic gets grant to provide dental care

For the third consecutive year, the Community Care Clinic has received a grant to cover dental supplies for an entire year.
Curtis Ladig, president and CEO of Delta Dental of North Carolina, was on hand last week to present a $5,500 check to Krista Woolly, the clinic’s executive director. With this donation, the clinic has received more than $15,000 from the dental insurance company’s foundation, Woolly said.
Also on hand was Rep. Harry Warren, whose office works closely with the clinic in assisting his constituents in getting services.
The clinic is for Rowan County adults, ages 19 and up, who have no other access to insurance, who do not receive Medicaid and who live at 200 percent of the poverty level.
The foundation receives applications each year, Ladig said. “We assess each of those for the impact they have on their communities. We’re pleased to have chosen the Community Care Clinic for the past three years. They do great work in this county.”
Woolly always likes to point out that for every $1 donated to the clinic, its clients receive $8 worth of care and services. For dental patients, however, it’s slightly more complicated — and costly — for their treatment.
“Every time you put someone in a dental chair, you’ve got expenses,” Woolly said. “It costs money. We’ve been limited by volunteers, dentists and supplies.”
Grants such as these help to alleviate the need, Woolly said. Additionally, a grant from the Office of Rural Health has funded a part-time dental assistant, along with increased hours for dental hygienists and dentists.
This combination, Woolly said, resulted in a 60 percent increase in patient visits from 2012 to 2013. Last year, the clinic had some 1,515 visits from patients.
And although Woolly was more than happy to receive the oversized check on Monday from Ladig, it was just another busy morning at the clinic.
Dr. Vaughn Hendrix, a semi-retired dentist from Charlotte, works at the clinic each Monday. He is paid for his time and he also volunteers time. On this particular day, he saw some 20 patients.
Iesha Horton had come for a “real bad toothache.”
Horton has visited the clinic many times.
“It’s been real helpful for me,” she said. “I’ve got two teeth that need to come out. This place is very helpful. I don’t have Medicaid right now.”
Michelle Guevera had one tooth pulled on Monday. It had broken and was beyond repair. She is a longtime patient of hygienist Debbie Hill.
“I just like Debbie,” Guevera said, following her extraction. “She talks with you about personal things. It’s a good place to come. Everybody’s so friendly and nice. They help a lot of people.”
“This is the best job I’ve ever had,” Hill said, wiping down the equipment in preparation for the next patient. “I can truly say I love my job.”
In the 1990s, Hendrix volunteered at the clinic with Dr. Bryant Norman, and has started volunteering again since he’s semi-retired.
“The people really need what we provide,” he said Monday between patients. “It gives me a good feeling to help someone in need. The people who work here are the nicest people in the world. I just enjoying coming up from Charlotte. I don’t mind it at all.”
Because Hendrix has a special expertise in fitting partials, he has been invaluable in completing adjustment work once the partials arrive from the dental lab.
The clinic has two treatment rooms. Hill is a hygienist and dental coordinator, and Stephanie Stanton is a part-time assistant. Some 15 dentists come and volunteer for the clinic.
“We are so thrilled to have a dental clinic,” Woolly said. “There are 80 free clinics in the state, but only about one-third have dental care.”
The clinic is open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday; 5-8 p.m. Tuesday; 8 a.m.-4 p.m. every other Wednesday; and 8 a.m.-2 p.m. every other Friday.
Patients must enroll in the clinic before they are seen by a dentist or hygienist. At an enrollment appointment, patients must bring a driver’s license, Social Security card, Medicaid denial information and proof of income.
The clinic serves clients who do not have Medicaid or insurance.
“We’re a safety net organization, is what you could call us,” Woolly said.
During his visit on Monday, Ladig pointed out that oral health — good or bad — affects the rest of the body.
“Oral health is the window to the body,” Ladig said. “There is a direct connection to your overall health.”
Not only that, but if you have problems with your teeth, he said, your self-esteem can also suffer.
Warren, who grew up without dental care, has a special affinity for the clinic.
“I have people call my office for a multitude of reasons,” Warren said, but particularly about health care issues. “Part of the problem is that people don’t know what’s available.”
“We’ve got to keep information about our clinic in front of people all the time,” Woolly said.
The clinic typically provides cleanings and extractions, Woolly said. “When we can get supplies for free, we’ve lately been able to provide patients with partials, which is huge.”
In talking with Woolly and Warren, Ladig said, “We are pleased that funds from the foundation can be used to fill gaps where needs exist.”
He also noted, “If we leave these needs unmet, we have people going to the emergency room. If we can have better options like this, we can help spend health care dollars more efficiently.”
Delta Dental Foundation also funds Smiles for Kids, which donates $40,000 a year in dental care for children who are underserved and uninsured, Ladig said.
For more information about dental care at the Community Care Clinic, call 704-636-4523.

Freelance writer Susan Shinn lives in Salisbury.

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