Local hospital unveils mobile dental clinic to help Independence children

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. - Starting Monday, children in Independence, Mo., will have easier access to a dentist.

Truman Medical Center Lakewood is unveiling its new Mobile Dental Coach at Blackburn Elementary School.

In 2011, Truman Lakewood partnered with the Independence School District in order to ensure children would have access to important dental care.

"We talked to Independence School District who we partnered with," said COO Charlie Shields. "They tell us the ability of children to learn in that setting with tooth pain is very, very difficult."

Since the partnership began, dentists with Truman Lakewood have been able to see approximately 1,700 children.

But the process has not been an easy one.  The dentists set up in whatever space is available in the school: the gym, an empty classroom, at one point, a closet.  With chairs and portable dental equipment, it took time to set up each day. Valuable time, Dr. John Dane said, that could be spent examining children.

"We had to pull in, unpack, set up," Dr. Dane said. "We would spend easily an hour and a half to two hours a day in the process of setting up to be able to see kids than being able to see kids finally."

For two years, Truman Lakewood worked on a campaign to raise money for a mobile dental unit.

"This is about a $500,000 vehicle," Shields said. "It is custom-made just to provide dental services so it's not just putting chairs in an RV, this is made for this purpose."

The mobile dental unit is equipped with two dental chairs and a full X-ray machine, a device the dentists didn't have previously.

"Doing this will allow us to be more efficient," Dr. Dane said. "Actually allow us to do more things because the portable equipment limits the type of dental procedures you can do and, with this office, we actually have a fully set up clinic."

Dr. Dane said the children they see are children who, otherwise, would not be able to see a dentist.

"Most of these kids are Medicaid recipients; they have difficulty finding services," he said. "Part of the biggest problem is transportation. They can't get to a dentist if they find a Medicaid recipient, so that's why we bring the care to them."

While this program is only available for Independence students now, Truman Medical Center Lakewood is hoping to be able to expand it to include more children around the area.

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