By Christin Coyne
Palo Pinto County is getting its first area free dental clinic in August, thanks in part to a request by a local dentist, but there is still a lot of work to make it happen.
The Aug. 15 event at the Mineral Wells Senior Center will focus on bringing emergency dental help to 100 low-income residents who need cleanings, fillings and teeth pulled.
Currently funded by a grant from the Meadows Foundation, the Smiles on Wheels project brings emergency dental care to rural communities who have the need and infrastructure to support the program, according to Smiles director Traci Whitney.
Local dentist Saskia Vaughan said she saw a booth for the program at a Texas Dental Association conference and suggested it be brought to Palo Pinto County, which has a need but no charitable dental clinic or program.
“The problem is overwhelming in this county,” Vaughan said.
“We see a lot of people who need to have teeth taken out or a root canal but can’t afford it,” Vaughan said. “They just walk out of the office.”
Though she and other dentists take on the occasional charity case, Vaughan said they can’t do them all and they don’t have anywhere to refer them.
Besides the pain, which often causes people to miss work, other problems plague those with serious dental issues, according to Vaughan.
“If you have bad-looking teeth, it’s sad to say but you can’t get a job,” Vaughan said.
With dental care more common, teeth problems hold more stigma now, Vaughan said. “It makes people withdraw socially … they learn to hold their lips when they are talking so their teeth don’t show.”
“There are direct links from an infection in the mouth to other health problems,” Vaughan said, including diabetes, heart disease and premature births.
By Christin Coyne
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