The mobile dental service, SmileMobile, has come back to Goldendale and setted up shop at the Goldendale Primary School (GPS) on Monday, April 16, and were in town until April 20. The SmileMobile is a traveling dentist office that offers dental services to children zero to high-school aged and for pregnant women who have limited access to dental care.
The SmileMobile is a brightly painted 39-foot dental clinic on wheels, and last fall a brand new, state-of-the-art SmileMobile started making its rounds to the rural areas of Washington State. It is staffed with a dentist, a dental assistant, and a clinic manager and travels the state year-round providing services ranging from routine exams and x-rays, preventative care, fillings, and minor oral surgery.
The SmileMobile program started in 1995, and Senior Program Officer Kari Amundson says that it has examined or treated more the 40,000 youngsters in Washington State since it began.
“Our goal is to provide preventative and restorative treatment and give oral health education,” Amundson says. “We have found that in many rural areas young people and pregnant women, who face economic challenges, are not getting the access to dental care that they need and we want to help them get it.”
The SmileMobile will be accepting Apple Health, the state Medicaid insurance program, for children under 20 and for pregnant women. It will offer a sliding-fee scale, based on family income and size, with most clients qualifying for up to 90 percent off services provided.
Amundson says that 45 percent of children covered by Apple Health in Klickitat County are not using it for dental visits because of the lack of access—especially in rural areas—to dental providers who accept state Medicaid.
“That is why we travel around the state,” Amundson says. “We are here to fill in the gaps of coverage in places where fewer providers take Apple Health patients. We also educate and try to connect Apple Health participants to local or regional dental offices that do accept it.”
Dental decay is the single most common disease of early childhood with nearly 53 percent of elementary school children in Washington State having had dental decay at some point. Two-year-olds in Washington are twice as likely to have dental decay then children nationwide and Amundson says that tooth decay is 100 percent preventable.
“Oral health contributes to overall health,” Amundson says. “And the SmileMobile brings access to oral health, and health equity in general, to underserved communities.”
The SmileMobile is operated by the Arcora Foundation—formerly Washington Dental Service— as a non-profit organization created, and partially funded, by Delta Dental of Washington in partnership with Seattle Children’s Hospital. Arcora Foundation is the state’s largest foundation committed to improving oral health and supports innovative oral health programs focused on preventing oral disease.
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