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Another free dental clinic planned for June 2009 in Hedgesville

July 16, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Oral health care professionals are expected to return to Hedgesville (W.Va.) High School in June 2009 for another free, two-day dental clinic after providing an estimated $475,000 in dental services last month.

"We're definitely going to do it next year," said Betty Russell, who chaired the Eastern Panhandle's Mission of Mercy. Next year's first-come, first-served event is scheduled for June 26 and 27.

More than 1,000 people, some who traveled from as far as Morgantown, W.Va., Orrstown, Pa., Washington D.C., and Wytheville, Va., received oral-health treatments from more than 60 dentists and dozens of oral-health professionals who volunteered for the free clinic, according to data compiled by event organizers.

"Hopefully, next year we'll be able to do as well, if not see more people," Russell said.

Several hundred volunteers supported the two-day operation that was staged to improve the oral health of area residents and raise awareness of the need for better care.

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"We had to turn about 200 people away," Russell said.

Health professionals provided 1,153 oral examinations and performed 1,526 extractions, according to information compiled from patient charts completed during the event. More than 800 X-rays were taken and denture services were provided in 21 instances.

The value of the services provided did not include medical screenings, Russell said.

And the value of the effort of more than 500 volunteers was immeasurable, she said.

"The volunteers were awesome," Russell said. "Very rarely do you receive 'thank you' notes from a volunteer saying 'thank you for doing this,'" Russell said.

Russell said organizers were particularly thankful for the support received from the MOM clinic's benefactor, Mikki Van Wyk, who has renewed a financial commitment for next year's event.

The estimated cost of staging the dental clinic last month was about $40,000, which Russell said obviously "went a long way" in providing a benefit to a large number of people who were financially unable to obtain oral-health care.

"They got their smile back. Now they've got to keep it," Russell said with a laugh.

Though organizers had to turn some people away, Russell said she was amazed at how smoothly the first-ever dental clinic in West Virginia went.

"Only about 10 of us had ever done it before," Russell said.

Even as plans move ahead for next year's clinic, Russell said an initiative by Healthy Smiles of the Eastern Panhandle Inc., a nonprofit organization, to establish a permanent facility for dental services continues.

Russell said she anticipates learning the outcome of a federal grant application to benefit the initiative in August.

"That would be the ultimate goal, instead of trying to hold a two-day clinic," Russell said.

A 2003 survey by the West Virginia Bureau of Health indicated more than 10,000 Medicaid eligible children in the Eastern Panhandle were not receiving adequate dental care.

Sponsored by the United Way of the Eastern Panhandle, the MOM clinic was modeled after similar all-volunteer service projects first launched in 2000 by Terry Dickinson, executive director of the Virginia Dental Association.

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