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Martinsburg new oral-health center lining up patients

December 01, 2009|By TRISH RUDDER

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- A steady stream of community members got a sneak peek Tuesday at the new Healthy Smiles Community Oral Health Center that will officially open next week.

The center, which opens Monday at the intersection of U.S. 11 and Warm Springs Avenue in Martinsburg, was open for tours and officials stressed the clinic is not just for those without dental insurance. 

Dave Fant, executive director of Shenandoah Community Health and a Healthy Smiles board member, said the 2,500-square-foot clinic is for the entire community -- the uninsured, underinsured and those with private insurance, Medicare, Medicaid and CHIP.  

"We need to take care of all the members of our community. Those with insurance help share the costs of operating the dental center, which makes it easier to help those without insurance," Fant said.

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Patients paying out of their own pockets will be charged on a sliding scale based on income, he said.  

The need for an oral-health clinic was great, especially after hundreds of people lined up for free dental assistance at the Mission of Mercy (MOM) events in 2008 and 2009 at Hedgesville High School, he said. 

Through grants, individuals and organizations, Healthy Smiles received about $750,000 to fund the clinic, Fant said.

"We are debt-free," he said. "We need to ensure this clinic is sustainable and we are not fully dependent on donations."

Fant was excited about the clinic finally opening.

"I think it's great when a community works together to make an investment to make it better for everybody," he said. 

Betty Russell, one of the founding supporters, painted several colorful canvases, which are hanging on the clinic's walls. She said she wanted something for the children "to make them smile."

"This clinic is much-needed in the community," said Dr. Dawn Jones of Shenandoah Community Health on Tavern Road in Martinsburg. Shenandoah Community Health will manage the oral-health clinic.

"Oral health influences so many conditions," she said.

Fant said people have already called the clinic to get on the list to be contacted.

"We are prioritizing to get to those with the greatest need first," Fant said. 

The first issue is "relieving pain related to poor dental health," he said. 

The clinic will add another dentist and a dental hygienist as "we see the need," Fant said. 

Dentists from the Eastern Panhandle and Hagerstown have shown interest in taking care of uninsured patients.

"They are volunteering their time," he said. 

Fant said board members are looking into the possibility of a dental resident from West Virginia University working at the clinic, "and that person can work with the uninsured," he said.

The clinic will employ one dentist, Dr. Leonisha R. Thomas, one full-time and two part-time dental assistants, and one office manager, said Barb Campbell, office manager. 

She said Healthy Smiles will be open by appointment only from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, and from 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday.

The telephone number is 304-267-0250.

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