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Local dentists donate time

Karen Mason
Community Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” More than 225 children in Eagle County now have access to dental care they didn’t have before, thanks to a local collaborative effort called Eagle County Smiles.

The coalition, now in its second year of treating the under- and uninsured children of Eagle County, was established in 2006 in response to a survey that showed one in four Eagle County third graders had untreated tooth decay.

Untreated oral diseases prevent children from concentrating and learning in school, can lead to malnutrition, exacerbate conditions like heart disease, asthma, and diabetes, and promote premature and low-birthweight deliveries for pregnant women.



Each April for the past two years, students, professors, and a dental assistant from the University of Colorado School of Dentistry have arrived to conduct a thorough dental screening, education, x-rays, fluoride varnish, and a treatment plan. This year, the task force provided free screens for 219 uninsured and underinsured children.

Several of the children seen at the screening had oral health issues so severe that they needed to be seen for treatment long before the Colorado SmileMakers van arrived. As a result, several area dentists stepped up to provide the emergency care that these children needed at a significantly reduced cost.



For the rest of the children, treatment is completed in the summer when the University’s Colorado SmileMakers van comes to Eagle County to treat those children identified with ongoing oral health issues.

Many of you saw this incredible mobile dental clinic, parked between Edwards Medical Center and the Shaw Regional Cancer Center.

This program would be impossible were it not for the financial support of multiple organizations including: the University of Colorado School of Dentistry, Eagle County, The Salvation Army, The Vail Valley Charitable Fund, Vail Rotary, Swift Eagle Charitable Foundation, Vail Resorts, United Way of the Eagle River Valley, Vail Valley Cares, Vail Valley Medical Center, Colorado Department of Rural Health Care, and Mt. of the Holy Cross Lutheran Congregation.



Doctors James Jack, Kim Shilling, Joann LeClaire and Gary Dunkel as well as Dental Assistant Kirsten Hoffman of the University of Colorado School of Dentistry, along with their team of 20 dental students, offered a dental home to the uninsured in our community for the van’s six-week stay.

Local dentists Ryan Zastrow, Ron Zastrow, Shelly Raichart and Mandy Robison ” in addition to supporting the emergency needs of these children throughout the year “‚ donated their time and energy to treat children on the van during its stay. Tami Figueroa of the Salvation Army single-handedly coordinated a team of volunteers to staff and translate for these families as well.

For many of the children screened and treated, this is the first time they’ve seen a dentist. For others, it’s an opportunity to receive the routine dental care they’ve been otherwise unable to access.

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