KANNAPOLIS, N.C. – The Cannon Foundation is donating $200,000 to the Cabarrus Health Alliance to expand dental services for local children.
The health alliance will expand its public health dental delivery services to uninsured, underinsured and underserved children through the purchase and coordination of portable dental chairs and equipment that can be taken into schools.
The equipment can be transported in a van and brought into any classroom space that has a standard electrical supply, according to the health alliance. The current dental mobile unit is limited in its ability to provide access to care due to age and limitations of the units. The unit’s structure allows for only certain procedures, and the lack of compatible connections limits the unit to serve only 15 schools.
With the support of The Cannon Foundation, the Cabarrus Health Alliance will increase the number of schools participating in the dental program from 15 to 35. Funds will cover the cost of a digital x-ray sensor system, dental equipment, and a dental van to transport equipment to various school sites. Health alliance officials expect that insurance and fees will generate sufficient revenue for the system to support its expenses within the first three years of operation.
“Dental health is one predictor of student success in the classroom,” said Janie Woodie, the dental program pirector. “If a child is suffering with dental pain and they are unable to go to the dentist, it is really hard for them to focus on school work which ultimately hinders their success. Our current large mobile truck has been successful for many years, but has its limitations including only having space and hook ups at a few elementary schools. This new system will allow us to expand to middle and high schools also.”
The Cabarrus Health Alliance currently operates its pediatric dental clinic services in two permanent locations, one in Kannapolis and one in Concord. The mobile model takes the service to the children so that transportation is no longer an issue, health officials said.
Cabarrus County residents need more access to dentists, said William Pilkington, the Cabarrus Health Alliance CEO and the county’s public health director.
“Cabarrus County and North Carolina alike fall well below the recommended number of dentists needed to serve everyone,” Pilkington said. “This innovative model of care will help serve children in a setting that is comfortable to them and remove transportation issues while also helping parents whose work schedules may make it difficult for them to take their children to the dentist.”
Dr. Thomas Burns, a seasoned mobile dental site practitioner, said he is excited about this new funding and what it will allow the Cabarrus Health Alliance to do.
“I have been working in mobile dental clinics since 2003 and cannot start to tell you how excited I am to see this new equipment that can go directly into the school buildings. The equipment is state of the art and is the same quality that is used in our clinics at Cabarrus Health Alliance,” Burns said. “This grant is a huge step forward in our efforts to serve the children of Cabarrus County. This grant will help children miss minimal amounts of school to obtain quality dental care while saving parents time and money. In the time it takes a parent to sign their child out of school and drive to the dentist, their child’s dental treatment will be completed right there at the school. The great thing about this program it is not bound by age, we can treat preschoolers all the way to high school! I am looking forward to seeing this program implemented in the 2014-15 school year.”