Restoring Smiles, Restoring Hope

Written by Annie Haarmann for PRIMO Newsletter published in January, 2010

Many people take good dental health for granted, but for those who are underinsured or uninsured, dental services are not easily available. As a result, many of these people live with chronic dental problems that can affect their overall health and well-being. In addition to the health problems it can cause, poor dental care can also be a source of social embarrassment for those with visible problems.

PRIMO helps Crider Health Center provide much needed dental services to the underinsured, uninsured and those on Medicaid. One family who recently relocated to St. Charles County from Texas has had hope restored because of dental services provided to them by Crider.

“We had just moved up from Texas, and we didn’t have any insurance,” said Christina. “My kids needed dental work done. I needed teeth pulled.”

Dr. Dustin Mace, a dentist at Crider Health Center, extracted several of Christina’s teeth at a reduced cost. He then referred her to a specialist who could complete upper and lower dentures for her, restoring her chewing function as well as her smile.

“My daughter had braces for two and a half years that had not been taken care of,” said Christina. As a result of the lack of orthodontic maintenance, her daughter, Talisha was in a great deal of pain from having brackets left on her teeth. Crider was able to refer her to a local orthodontist who was able to remove the brackets at no charge to the family. Later, Dr. Mace was able to restore parts of her teeth that had decayed, increasing Talisha’s self-esteem by giving her the ability to smile without being embarrassed.

“I had been to other dentists before and they were always really rough with my teeth. But Dr. Mace is not just here to do his job. He actually cares about his patients and their teeth,” explained Talisha.

Because of PRIMO, Crider was able to employ Dr. Mace while a base of dental patients was established. With the help of PRIMO funding, the dental program at Crider Health Center was able to treat 1,210 patients last year, including 505 adults and 705 children. These individuals would not otherwise have access to dental services because of their financial situation.

In addition, PRIMO funding has helped Crider provide a dental sealant program in Franklin County. Crider Health Center developed a school-based dental sealant program to present to large numbers of high-risk children with susceptible permanent molar teeth. The program intends to treat more than 4,750 children in all 10 Franklin County school districts. In addition to the dental sealant, the children participate in an educational program to learn skills for better oral health. The benefit of treating children within the schools is that there is no risk of appointment cancellation and no additional transportation or expense required of the parents. So far, the program has treated students in five of the school districts, and plans to treat additional school districts this spring.