Hundreds of kids are expected to attend the educational event that brims with fun, including a 25-cent matinee showing of The Sandlot baseball flick, along with a skit on orthodontics and dental hygiene handouts of 1,000 toothbrushes, floss and toothpaste.
The event is one of many creative ways that children and adults are being helped by the Dental Access Program of the Traverse Health Clinic and Coalition (THC&C) and Northland Dental Hygienists.
We screened 4,040 kids last year through the Traverse Bay Give Kids a Smile program, says Rene Louchart, dental health coordinator for THC&C. At the State Theatre, were going to offer more awareness of preventive oral health services and habits that parents may not be are of.
Louchart and her team have much to be proud of: recently, she was named Dental Hygienist of the Year in Michigan in large part for her role in organizing the Dental Access Program that provides dental hygiene services and screening people in five counties.
A GROWING NEED
We have a growing need for these services at a time when many people are losing their jobs, yet the cost of health care is rising, says Arlene Brennen, RN, who heads up the Community Health Access Program (CHAP) in Traverse City. In this five-county region alone, we have 15,000 adults living at low income levels, making around $10 per hour or less.
She adds that by one estimate, the number of Americans who do not have dental insurance is two-and-a-half times as many as those who do not have health insurance.
Even middle class families are slipping into the demographic known as the working poor, with the loss of jobs. Some families are in a state of shock, facing new economic realities; unable to pay healthcare bills; and may be unaware that help is available. Others have transportation issues and may have difficulty just getting their kids to the dentist.
Many of these people may not know about the community dental services that are available to them, Brennen notes. Fortunately, we have a lot of programs for children. Its adults who have the most problems with accessing dental care.
Adults do receive some help through the programs of the CHAP center, located across from Logans Landing on Airport Road in Traverse City.
Currently, four retired dentists, Drs, Don Pichè, Stephen Beeker, Royce Beers and Tom Littlefield, conduct referral exams on about 500 adults per year. Adults who are uninsured and have no access to Medicaid or Medicare are referred on to 30 volunteer dentists in the area who provide emergency services.
Those services are expanding to take some Medicaid patients, generally available to those who make less than $10 per hour.
CHAP has an even greater reach through its medical outreach program thats available to adults, ages 18 and older in Leelanau, Benzie and Grand Traverse counties.
Participants who get a CHAP card can come to see our physicians and nurses here. We have about 1,800 volunteers in the medical community who donate their time, as well as a wonderful optical and pharmacy program, says Angela Lyon, who helps coordinate the programs. She recently received a national award for her work in community outreach and health access programs.
JUST FOR KIDS
Children have better options for dental care through a variety of programs.
In a lot of families, its the husband and wife who need dental care the most because their children have coverage through Medicaid or through Delta Dentals Healthy Kids Program, Louchart notes.
School screenings are common, with kids encouraged to fill in a Dental Health Report Card to identify where hygiene needs to be improved, and to head off dental problems.
Michelle Smith is a local hygienist who has launched a program to treat children between the ages of 10-21. Launched last year, her outreach program is supported by Grand Traverse County and Dental Clinics North.
My program offers cleanings, X-rays and sealants to kids in need who qualify, says Smith, whos smile is as bright as her dream of expanding dental care to children. Working out of the Youth Health Wellness Center (at the Career Tech Center) in Traverse City, she saw 140 kids last year and hopes to take her program to new heights in the year ahead. Our hope is to be able to take some mobile equipment and go into the schools to promote better dental hygiene.
For the dental health team, one of the biggest challenges is just getting the word out to the community that help is available.
Theres such an enormous need to know out there. When we held a program at a local school, all of our brochures were gone in a flash, says Lyon. Parents are looking for help and need to know their options.
Check out Dental Health Morning at the State Theatre in downtown TC on Saturday, Oct. 25 at 10:30 a.m. Also, check out www.gtchd.org/health, or call the Traverse Health Clinic at
231-935-0668 or the Youth Health Wellness Center at 231-922-6416 for care options.