Letter: Eagle CO. kids need dental program | VailDaily.com

Letter: Eagle CO. kids need dental program

Bethany Van Wyk and Karen Simon
Eagle County Smiles

In a survey of Eagle County residents, 48 percent of responding households reported problems accessing dental care, and nearly 25 percent of third-graders have untreated tooth decay. Untreated oral diseases prevent children from concentrating and learning in school, can lead to malnutrition, exacerbate conditions like heart disease and diabetes, and promote early and low-birthweight deliveries for pregnant women.

In response, a local coalition of nonprofit organizations, public agencies, and dental professionals ” called Eagle County Smiles ” was established in 2006 to meet the needs of under- and uninsured individuals in Eagle County.

During the weeks of April 14 and April 21, four dental students, one dental assistant, one dentist, and one associate professor from the University of Colorado School of Dentistry arrived to screen 160 children at Edwards Medical Center. The response to this service, through referrals by partnering organizations and advertisements in the Vail Daily, was so large that a waiting list of more than 40 children existed before the screen started. Not wanting to turn any children away, the staff and students of the university worked longer hours and took over additional exam rooms in neighboring clinics to meet the need. In the end, 219 children were served.

These children received a thorough dental screening, education, x-rays, fluoride varnish, and a treatment plan. The treatment will be completed this summer when the University’s Colorado Smilemakers van comes to Eagle County to treat those children identified with ongoing oral health issues. For many of the children seen, this was the first time that they had been able to see a dental provider. For others, this has become an annual opportunity to receive the routine dental care that they are unable to otherwise access in our county.

The screening program was a huge success. We owe a big thanks to: Associate Professor JoAnn LeClaire; Dr. James Jack; dental assistant Kirsten Hoffman; and dental students Matt Bishop, Lina Kulkarni, Larissas Tolley, and Jennina Bouy for donating their time to Eagle County children.

We would like to thank Mt. of the Holy Cross Lutheran Church for their financial support of this screening program. Most importantly, our gratitude goes to Tami Figueroa of the Vail Valley Salvation Army for her tireless efforts on behalf of the children screened. Were it not for Tami’s coordination, translation, follow-through, and support, this screening literally could not have occurred.

Thanks also go to the Vail Daily for helping us get the word out and to Vail Valley Medical Center for donating the facilities for the screening. Northstar Urology and the Eagle Care Clinic likewise offered ongoing support during the University’s two-week stay. And to Lisa Siegert-Free of the Christie Lodge for helping us house the university staff and students: thank you.

Last but not least, it is important to mention that 17 of the children seen at this screening had oral health issues so severe that they need to be seen for treatment long before the Colorado Smilemakers van arrives this summer. As a result, several of our county’s dentists have stepped up to provide the emergency care that these children need at a significantly reduced cost. They are: Paul Corcoran, Bob Faucett, Summer Kassmal, Shelley Raichart, Mandy and Todd Robison, Josh Steedley, Aaron Thompson, Michael Wing, Ron Zastrow, and Ryan Zastrow. The Vail Rotary’s Child Health Initiative, Eagle County Health and Human Services, the Swift Eagle Charitable Foundation, and Vail Valley Charitable fund also are working with us to provide funding for these health-care emergencies.

To all of those mentioned, and to the Eagle County Smiles coalition, our sincere appreciation.

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