OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla., Sept. 26, 2012 (SEND2PRESS NEWSWIRE) -- Delta Dental of Oklahoma announces that The Oklahoma Dental Foundation Mobile Dental Unit has provided free dental care to more than 10,000 patients as of Sept. 6. Dafne Soto, 8, of Oklahoma City was the honored 10,000th patient served on the mobile unit as it made a stop at the Latino Community Development Agency. Soto was one of eight children and youth who had an appointment for needed dental care that day.
The mobile dental unit travels across the state each year as part of ODF's Mobile Dental Care Program.
"She didn't know she was going to be the 10,000th patient," said Berenice Saldana, Soto's mother. "It was a surprise, but she's happy. She enjoyed it."
Saldana said her daughter needed care for cavities that were causing her back teeth to crumble, but Saldana is a single mother of three children and does not have insurance.
"It is very beneficial for my family to be able to come here and receive free care on the mobile dental unit," Saldana said.
Saldana's family is one of many in Oklahoma in need of affordable access to dental care.
"In Southeast Oklahoma there is approximately one dentist for every 4,000 adults and in Southwest Oklahoma, one for every 3,000," said John Wilguess, executive director of the Oklahoma Dental Foundation. "We're trying to reach people who can't afford dental care, don't have access to a dentist or who may have to take off too much work to travel to a dentist."
The Oklahoma Dental Foundation began the mobile dental care program in 2006 using volunteer dentists. Since that time, Delta Dental of Oklahoma Oral Health Foundation has supported the program with nearly $1 million in grants. Part of that funding has allowed the program to double its reach by paying for contract dentists to go to rural areas where access to care is especially low and to provide services during weekdays when volunteers are unavailable.
"We're proud to support the efforts of all the volunteer dental professionals who make so much of this care possible and to help the mobile program meet the oral health needs of even more Oklahomans," said Terrisa Singleton, foundation manager for Delta Dental of Oklahoma. "There are many different barriers to care, and the ODF mobile unit is all about overcoming them."
A site visit requires an involved site partner who publicizes the visit, recruits and screens prospective patients and schedules appointments, which then allows the mobile unit to pull up, plug in and begin taking care of patients.
In 2011, the mobile dental unit served 1,300 patients with more than $415,000 in total value of services.
"When I first began treating dental patients on the mobile unit, I thought the cost of dental care was the only barrier," said Jeannie Bath, the dentist on site Sept. 6, 2012. "But driving out to a rural site, I think of our patients driving those same long, lonely Oklahoma roads back toward town for their needed dental care.
"Having the ability to address urgent and potential emergency infections on the mobile dental unit, allows us to prevent patients without a dentist from seeking temporary relief for that infection in the ER."
Once on-site, the unit runs on the expertise of dental professionals who can provide a variety of restorative and preventative procedures on board, including cleanings, fluoride varnish, fillings and extractions.
"It is amazing for us to see the impact our programs make on the lives of those we serve," said Wilguess. "We arrive in a community, set up our unit and immediately help people. It changes every day, and we keep pushing to do more."
The mobile dental care program is funded by Delta Dental of Oklahoma Oral Health Foundation, Sarkeys Foundation, Sandridge Energy and Oklahoma Health Care Authority.
The mission of the Oklahoma Dental Foundation is to eliminate barriers to oral health care for Oklahomans. For more information or to download the mobile unit schedule, visit http://www.okdf.org/ .
The Delta Dental of Oklahoma Oral Health Foundation is the philanthropic affiliate of Delta Dental of Oklahoma and is committed to facilitating dental health and education-related programs and initiatives by providing funding, consulting and support statewide. For more information, visit http://www.ddokfoundation.org/ .
* Image Caption: Jeannie Bath, DDS, with patient Dafne Soto (model released.)
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