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Kids get free dental care

February 06, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- A dozen Eastern Panhandle dentists, supported by staff and fellow oral health professionals, volunteered their services Friday to provide about 100 young people with dental care in the Eastern Panhandle.

Patients ages 2 to 19 received an array of treatments as part of the American Dental Association's Give Kids A Smile program, said dentist Patricia Hartman, who expected to see about 10 patients Friday.

"There's such a need, you feel like anything you can do will make a difference," said Hartman, who took the lead in getting other dentists to volunteer their services at offices in Berkeley and Jefferson counties.

Lisa Dunn, director of dental health programs at the Eastern Division of the West Virginia University Health Sciences Center in Martinsburg, said she referred about 70 children to receive services in the first Give Kids A Smile program, which was sponsored by the Eastern Panhandle Dental Society.

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"This kind of goes hand-in-hand with the M.O.M. project," Dunn said.

Last summer, hundreds of volunteers and oral health professionals provided more than $500,000 in dental services to area residents at Hedgesville (W.Va.) High School at no charge at the first Mission of Mercy (M.O.M.) project in West Virginia.

"The M.O.M. project was very rewarding, and at the same time, it was a little bit of a shock when you saw how many people came in with pretty bad circumstances (who) ignored it because they didn't have another option," Hartman said. "It was really nice to see everyone coming together and working together and giving their time and services and donating materials ... it was really awesome, actually."

A second, two-day M.O.M. event at Hedgesville High School has been scheduled for June 26 and 27, and another M.O.M. event is being planned for this summer in Parkersburg, W.Va.

The dollar value of treatments provided Friday will "literally be thousands of dollars," Dunn said.

In her role with WVU, Dunn said she has seen more than 1,500 children since being hired to coordinate prevention and intervention oral health screening programs in the Eastern Panhandle.

Among those examinations, Dunn said about 20 percent of the children younger than 2 had tooth decay that needed immediate treatment.

Among 4-year-olds she has seen at Head Start programs, Dunn said about 40 percent have immediate needs.

"We just have to get back to educating people (about dental care)," she said.

There is a need for more oral health care professionals, particularly in pediatric dentistry, Dunn said.

"Working with children is a specialty all its own," she said.

A graduate of West Virginia University, Hartman said she and her staff received help from fellow WVU School of Dentistry graduate Cindy Knotts, who drove up from Winchester, Va., for the day, and retired dentist Thane S. Farmer. Farmer sold his practice to Hartman last summer and retired in December.

"The volunteerism that we've shown, the community has shown has been incredible. It really has," said Give Kids a Smile volunteer Doris Reimer, a nurse at Shenandoah Community Health Center who provided transportation Friday.

Last year, the Give Kids A Smile program resulted in treatment of more than 480,000 children, according to the American Dental Association's Web site. Events were staged at 1,888 locations across the nation, with more than 47,000 dental team volunteers providing free services to underserved children.

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