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Statesville Has Improved Dental Clinic

The developed, enlarged dental clinic housed in the Iredell County Health Department has opened its doors.

After seven months of reconstruction, the clinic has started providing services to county residents who are 18 years and younger.

The clinic serves an average of 325 patients a month. During the first year in the new clinic, health-department officials expect the number of patient visits to increase by 40 percent, said Susan Johnson, the director of Nursing and Clinical Services. She said, "Our goal with the children and adults is to restore our patients to a good state of oral health. We want to take care of basic dental needs because those are the things that cause pain and other health issues."

Gerri Howell, an assistant dental supervisor who has worked for the health department for 18 years, stated that the first week kept the clinic staff full of activity.

She said that however, being busier means that they are providing much-needed services to more individuals.

She said, "We got a lot more room, which means we can see more patients. There's definitely a need for dental care in the county."

Based on countywide and statewide surveys and evaluations, health officials recognized that the requirement for dental care was increasing, and access to care was an obstruction for some residents.

Paying for dental care was the No. 2 unmet requirement in the county, according to the 2006 Human Service Needs Study conducted by the United Way of Iredell County.

In 2008, the clinic plans to extend its services to a limited number of adults since "the need for dental care in adults is just as high as it is in children," Johnson said.

From Jan. 1 to June 30 of this year, there were 1,956 dental visits. According to Johnson, about 70 percent of those patients make use of Medicaid; 10 percent paid 80 percent or less of the cost; 19 percent had private insurance; and 1 percent paid the full cost of treatment.

For those who cannot manage to pay for regular fees, the health department offers a sliding-scale fee based on income and family size. She said, "We see there is a tremendous need for dental care in Iredell County, and there's even more of a need for dental care among economically disadvantaged."

The entire cost of the project is close to $600,000, which contains salaries of the dentists and further staffers for the first year.

Construction and equipment costs were half of the full amount.

According to Johnson, the clinic will in due course become self-supporting with no local tax dollars paying for every day operations.

In order to be self-sufficient, it would have to bring in an adequate amount of revenue through Medicaid, insurance and private pay to cover expenses.

 

 

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