First-Time Grant Expands Dental Clinics For Kids In Champaign
A Champaign-based clinic for the low income is the first-ever recipient of a state grant to expand outreach in oral health.
The $100-thousand ‘Wisdom Tooth Award’ from Delta Dental is going to Promise Healthcare, the parent group of Frances Nelson Health Center.
As a result, Promise Executive Director Nancy Greenwalt says nearly 1,000 more children in Champaign County will be served each year through its ‘Smile Healthy’ clinic and mobile program.
She said many parents wait too long to provide dental care to their kids.
"We support dentists by (age) 1," she said. "This money will be used to educate more about that so that children and parents can see the dentist when the first tooth erupts, so that they can learn about how to take care of their teeth. In Champaign County, a third of the kids we see, little 4 and 5-year olds, get cavities, and sometimes even teeth that need to be extracted."
Naperville-based Delta Dental is awarding the grant next month. Greenwalt said the clinic will spend some time recruiting more staff to handle the additional demand.
The Frances Nelson facility and mobile program currently serve about 3,100 children.
A ribbon cutting ceremony was held Tuesday in Champaign to mark the opening of a new dental clinic for low-income, uninsured, and Medicaid eligible patients.
Located at the Francis Nelson Health Center, the 1,000 square-foot clinic seeks to treat about 2,500 people within the next year. Nancy Greenwalt is the director of Smile Healthy, a community-based initiative to provide dental care to the undeserved. She said in addition to having a dentist, three full-time dental assistants, and two part-time hygienists on staff, the clinic also has volunteer translators who speak both Spanish and English.
"Dental care is a procedure, and the patients need to understand what's going on - payment, contact information," said Greenwalt, who noted that up to 40 percent of the patients at the Francis Nelson Health Center speak Spanish. "It's just not possible without the translation services."
Smile Healthy operates another program that provides dental care for children. According to the United Way of Champaign County, that program has over 200 additional children waiting for care. All are 200 percent of the poverty level or below, and most are on Medicaid.
United Way President Lyn Jones said the clinic is needed more than ever.
"There are people who are missing work because of dental problems, causing extreme pain," Jones said. "This really will improve the overall health of citizens in Champaign County."
According to the United Way, at the time when the Francis Nelson dental clinic opened on Oct. 17, about a thousand people were on a waiting list for cavity fillings, teeth extraction, and other dental care.
More than half a million dollars in donations were used to start up the clinic, and the United Way of Champaign County hopes to raise approximately $50,000 to sustain dental services.
The cost of using the clinic's services will be determined on a sliding scale based on a person's income. Medicare does not cover dental costs.
The clinic is open Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. at 819 Bloomington Road in Champaign.
Other Champaign County groups offering dental service to low-income people include the Champaign County Christian Health Center, Champaign County Healthcare Consumers, Champaign-Urbana Public Health District, and the Parkland College Dental Hygiene Program.
(Photo by Sean Powers/WILL)