The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

March 9, 2013

Coming to Enid: MobileSmiles offers free dentist to uninsured

By Phyllis Zorn, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — A limited number of uninsured Enid adults will be able to see a dentist free of charge when the MobileSmiles Oklahoma dental van comes to Enid Community Clinic April 20.

MobileSmiles Oklahoma is operated jointly by the Oklahoma Dental Foundation and Delta Dental Foundation. Through the program, two fully equipped “dental offices on wheels” travel the state giving low-cost or no-cost dental care to those in need. The program will treat people who haven’t seen a dentist in two years or longer.

Janet Cordell, Enid Community Clinic coordinator, said it’s hoped next month’s MobileSmiles visit will be only the first of many visits to Enid. The idea is to provide dental services for adults, Cordell said.

“Our focus locally is going to be those who do not have access to dental care,” Cordell said.

Cordell said local dentists are good about seeing children who need care, even when there is no reimbursement, but it’s harder to find dentists who will see uninsured adults. Part of the reason is because adult dental problems are typically more complex, Cordell said. It’s not as easy as pulling a tooth or giving a filling.

Cordell said patients at Enid Community Clinic often have dental problems.

“We see a tremendous number of people with meth mouth,” Cordell noted.

According to the American Dental Association, “meth mouth” is a term for the tooth and oral health damage caused by the illegal and highly addictive drug methamphetamine.

“The extensive tooth decay is likely caused by a combination of drug-induced psychological and physiological changes, resulting in dry mouth and long periods of poor oral hygiene,” the ADA-sponsored website reads.

But meth mouth is not the only dental issue for Enid Clinic patients.

“We see a fair number of people down here who have an abscessed tooth,” Cordell said. “All we can do is give them antibiotics.”

The problem with that is, chronic and systemic infections lead to an array of other health problems, Cordell said. Oral health issues can be the springboard for any number of life-threatening diseases.

Susan Hoover, program relations manager for the Oklahoma Dental Foundation, said the first mobile dental care van in Oklahoma was launched in 2006 by ODF. Last year, the Delta Dental Foundation partnered with ODF to add a second unit and the program was renamed MobileSmiles Oklahoma.

“We saw over 1,000 patients last year, and I think less than 10 of them actually had some type of insurance,” Hoover said.

Despite that, dentists throughout the state haven’t always welcomed the arrival of the van, Hoover said.

“We have had some push-back from local dentists when we go to towns,” Hoover said.

The exact location where MobileSmiles will set up in Enid has not been determined, but it will be somewhere in the vicinity of Enid Community Clinic, said Merle Isaak, social worker for the Garfield County Health Department.

As the day of the MobileSmiles van’s appearance in Enid comes closer, more details will be announced, Isaak said.

“As we get closer to the time and we learn more about the scheduling, then we’ll get as many people as we can to get their paperwork turned in,” Cordell said.

According to the Oklahoma State Department of Health, 56 Oklahoma counties have a shortage of dental health professionals, including Garfield, Grant, Kay, Major, Noble, Woods and Woodward counties in northwest Oklahoma.