WEST JEFFERSON-AppHealthCare wants to help you have a happier smile – and a new grant scored by the agency should help it do just that.
AppHealthCare – the organization was once known as the Appalachian District Health Department before it launched a new branding campaign – said it’s been approved for a new $350,000 federal grant that it’ll use to hire a dentist and two assistants, according to AppHealthCare’s Deputy Health Director Jennifer Greene.
“We’ve offered dental services in the past, but we think this model will be able to help us to serve more people in a meaningful way,” Greene said. “Just looking at the community needs and the data we have coming out of emergency rooms, we know that dental health needs to be improved across the region.”
Greene said the clinic will primarily serve Ashe and Alleghany Counties – at least initially – and will place an emphasis on mobility.
“I think we sometimes forget that not everybody can just jump in their car and drive to town for dental work,” Greene said. “Some people don’t have reliable access to transportation at all, so the hope is that by opening up clinics closer to areas that need it the most, we’ll be able to reach more people.”
While the agency has long focused its efforts on dental work for children, Greene said the new program will allow the agency to open up a wider range of options for adults.
“There’s a whole range of people that need help, including pregnant mothers,” Greene said. “You want moms-to-be to feel relaxed and eat right – it’s better for them and their baby – and that’s hard to do if you have all kinds of dental issues. Also you can quickly develop problems with infections.”
As a federally qualified health center, Greene said the agency’s goal is to treat people regardless of their ability to pay. That doesn’t mean the expanded dental service is aimed solely at patients near the poverty line, however.
A wide variety of insurance options will be accepted, according to Greene, and she envisions the service being used as an additional option for people looking to improve their oral health.
“It’s about offering greater choice,” Greene said. “If you’re a parent that just can’t get your kids into your normal dentist or their cleaning, this is going to be one more resource they can turn to.”
It won’t be the first mobile dental clinic service Ashe County. Timeless Smiles Dentistry, in partnership with Ashe Memorial Hospital and the Ashe County Sharing Center, brought its rolling dentistry operation to the High Country last month.
Aimed at those on Medicaid or without health insurance, it’s an effort that has begun to pay off, according to Michael Sexton, executive director of the Sharing Center. Working out of an RV, Sexton said the first stops made by the mobile unit were sparsely attended. Legwork by Sharing Center volunteers however, has opened up a floodgate of patients looking to take advantage of the service.
Sexton said the center had more than 20 patients lined up for a dental checkup scheduled for July 18.
Greene said she hopes to have the dental operation off the ground by October, and is currently working through promising candidates who have applied for the openings.
Reach Adam Orr at 336-489-3058.