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The Dentist is in the Details

Traveling dentist helps kids

10/06/02

COURTESY OF THE HERALD ONLINE - http://www.heraldonline.com

Dr. John Reese has concluded that if dental patients can't come to him, he'll go to them. With that in mind, the local dentist now travels to area schools to treat patients in a mobile dental clinic.

While this is not the entire answer to providing dental care to indigent children, it certainly helps. We hope this practice can expand and that other dentists will consider ways to help these young patients.

Reese's clinic on wheels resembles a large recreational vehicle. It is equipped with two work stations, a restroom and a sterilization area. In addition to routine examinations and cleanings, Reese also can take X-rays and perform fillings and extractions.

His patients are young and on Medicaid, the federally funded health program for low-income families. Most of his patients don't visit dentists regularly because of cost and the difficulty of getting to the dentist's office. Some patients have never seen a dentist before.

Reese recently treated students at Rock Hill's Independence Elementary School after parents gave their permission. He also makes regular stops at Sylvia Circle, Sunset Park and Belleview elementary schools in Rock Hill and at several schools in Clover.

Reese concedes that he can't meet all the needs of his patients. But, he notes, he can "put a dent in it."

Lack of dental care is a chronic problem among children from low- income families. Tooth and gum problems often make it difficult for children to concentrate in school. And dental problems in young people often lead to more serious problems as they grow older.

Some dentists refuse to treat Medicaid patients, and many limit the number of Medicaid patients they will see. To some extent, that is a financial necessity. Many dentists, of course, are committed to treating every patient, whatever their financial status. But they cannot assume the entire burden.

There are no easy answers, but innovative approaches, such as Reese's mobile clinic, are meeting a serious need for many children. Keep up the good work.