A $200,000 grant from the Cannon Foundation has allowed the Cabarrus Health Alliance to buy a new mobile dental clinic and visit more than twice as many schools throughout Cabarrus County.
The foundation awarded the local nonprofit a grant in June to help expand dental services, and the Health Alliance will launch the new mobile dental unit on March 24.
The goal of the alliance is to expand its dental care for the uninsured, underinsured and underserved children in the county. Money also was used to buy portable dental chairs, other equipment and supplies and a vehicle to haul it. The equipment can be set up in any room with a standard electrical supply.
The alliance bought its first dental mobile unit in November 1997 and upgraded it in June 1999. That unit worked for only certain procedures and lacked compatible electrical connections. It will still be used in addition to the new unit.
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With the dental support of the foundation, the alliance will increase the number of schools participating in the dental program from 15 to 35.
Alliance officials say it currently serves 8,000-plus patients per year throughout Cabarrus County. Insurance and fees will generate revenue to support project expenses, they said.
In addition to clinical services, the alliance has facilitated a communitywide dental task force to address issues of oral health-care access, which has led to a strong partnership with local providers, hospitals and nonprofit organizations, Shoe said.
National data from Healthy People 2020 indicate that 11.5 percent of children in kindergarten and fifth grade had untreated tooth decay in 2010, said Erin Shoe, the Human Resources & Community Relations Director for the Cabarrus Health Alliance. The mobile unit will help with prevention through regular screenings and minimize delayed care.
“Overall, Cabarrus County has only 3.49 dentists per 10,000 population, compared to 4.5 statewide,” Shoe said, citing stats from the Health Professions Data Book. Nationally, according to information in the 2012 the Health Profession Data Book, there were 5.3 dentists per 10,000 people, while Mecklenburg had 6.6 and Rowan and Union had 2.69.
Dr. Thomas Burns has worked in mobile dental clinics since 2003 and will be the primary dentist who works in the mobile unit.
“The equipment is state-of-the-art and is the same quality that is used in our clinics at Cabarrus Health Alliance,” Burns said. “This grant will help children miss minimal amounts of school to obtain quality dental care while saving parents time and money.
“In the time it takes a parent to sign their child out of school and drive to the dentist, their child’s dental treatment will be completed right there at the school, Burns said. “The great thing about this program it is not bound by age; we can treat preschoolers all the way to high school.”
For information on the Cabarrus Health Alliance, call 704-920-1000 or go to www.cabarrushealth.org/.