Residents in South Snohomish County who need either preventive dental care or treatment now but can’t afford it will have more opportunities for help, thanks to the Verdant Health Commission and the Washington Dental Service Foundation.
The two organizations helped fund 80 percent of a new mobile dental van that was officially unveiled Monday at the Verdant Health Center in Lynnwood. The van cost $420,000 and is one of 11 units operated by Medical Teams International. The van took a year to be built.
The van has two chairs and includes all the equipment that a regular dental office has, such as X-ray machines and sterilizers. The mobile dental clinic offers routine cleanings, extractions and fillings. Some of Medical Teams International’s local partners are the Lynnwood Food Bank, Edmonds Community College and Lutheran Community Services.
Verdant has worked with Medical Teams International (MTI) for the last three years in providing mobile dental clinics in South Snohomish County. MTI asked Verdant and the Washington Dental Service Foundation if they would be willing to support the replacement of a van.
“We were really blown away with the generosity we were met with,” said MTI Director of Dental Programs Matt Stiller. “It really speaks so much of the Washington Dental Service Foundation and Verdant. … This just adds so much credibility to what we’re doing. It affirms our program.”
Verdant Health Commission Assistant Superintendent George Kosovich described the mobile dental clinic program, which serves 600 people in South Snohomish County, as a “unique program in the community and a very needed service.”
When the commission did a needs assessment in the community, dental services rose to the top.
“That’s not unique to us,” said Kosovich, who noted that dental services also is a top need throughout Snohomish County.
About a third of the population in the area does not have dental insurance, Kosovich added. That means people often are left without preventative care.
Swedish Edmonds saw about 825 dental-related cases in the emergency room and Swedish Mill Creek had more than 1,000 of these cases last year.
“The ER is not a place you want to go when you are experiencing dental pain,” Kosovich said.
That’s where MTI can provide a much needed community resource.
“You get a really high level of care,” Kosovich said. “You get the same level of care as in a dental office.”
Washington Dental Service Foundation Deputy Director Diane Oakes stressed the importance of the foundation’s singular focus, which is on oral health.
Oakes recounted hearing stories of children in classrooms, who may not be paying attention or who are acting out.
“What nobody knows is that child is in pain in her mouth because of untreated tooth decay and she hasn’t had the opportunity to have someone look in her mouth to find it,” Oakes said.
Children who have good oral health care do better in school and have an easier time eating and sleeping, Oakes added.
Adults can face significant challenges if they a missing tooth or have visible tooth decay.
“It’s hard to get a job like that,” Oakes said. “People in our culture do look at you a little bit differently if you have that visible tooth decay.”
People with certain conditions, such as diabetes, also are impacted by their oral health. Diabetics who have gum disease have a harder time controlling their blood sugar levels, Oakes noted. Oral health or the lack of oral health can impact a person’s whole body and whole life, Oakes said.
The foundation works hard to determine where to put its money and looks for good investments. Medical Teams International definitely meets the criteria, which is a program that reaches large numbers of people and meets a need in the community, Oakes said.
For more information on Medical Teams International see: medicalteams.org. The scheduling of mobile dental clinics generally is handled by MTI’s community partners.
– Story and photos by David Pan