PORT TOWNSEND — There are several happy children and mothers in Jefferson County this week, smiling wide after a visit to a unique dental office on wheels.
The SmileMobile, a three-chair van outfitted with all the modern equipment a dentist needs, has been operating out of the Jefferson County Health Department parking lot in Port Townsend this week through today. It is offered statewide through a partnership of Delta Dental of Washington, Arcora Foundation and Seattle Children’s Hospital.
This oral care program is offered for Port Townsend, Port Hadlock and Chimacum babies, children in elementary through high school, and pregnant and postpartum women who have no insurance or who are insured through Washington state’s Apple Health program. The appointments are provided at little or no cost to patients.
“The clinic treats about 60 patients a week, mostly for exams, but people do come back for dental work,” said Shelly Rose, mobile clinic manager.
In addition to exams and cleaning, services include x-rays, fillings and simple extractions. Referrals are made to the Peninsula Community Dental Clinic in Bremerton for follow-up care.
Dr. Paul Phillips of Omak and Sarah McQuillen, a dental assistant from Port Townsend, staffed the van this week.
Phillips practices one week a month for the SmileMobile. He typically sees patients through his work with Indian Health Services in Omak.
High on the list of priorities for Phillips is oral hygiene for pregnant and postpartum women.
“It is important for these women to be seen by a dentist,” Phillips said. “Recent research shows us that oral bacteria can transfer from mom to a fetus through the bloodstream. And postpartum, mothers still need to be careful for six months.
“Once a baby becomes infected, it is a host for this type of bacteria which can lead to many other health issues,” he added.
Kerri Amundson, senior program officer for Arcora — The Foundation of Delta Dental of Washington said that the agency has seen “a real need in Jefferson County for our services.”
“The numbers indicate that there has been an increase in patients served in the last year and that’s why we plan to be here more than one week a year,” she said.
According to SmileMobile, dental decay is the single most common chronic disease of early childhood and is five times more prevalent than asthma. And 53 percent of elementary school children in Washington state have had dental decay.
The SmileMobile will be parked in front of the Brinnon Elementary School, 46 Schoolhouse Road from this coming Monday through Thursday, beginning at 1 p.m. each day.
It will return to Port Townsend on March 5 and will be available through March 9.
“Kids are rewarded for taking care of their oral health with prizes like stickers and rings and other fun things,” said clinic manager Rose.
On March 2, the SmileMobile will participate in the Clallam County Homeless Connect program at the Vern Burton Community Center, 308 E. Fourth St. in Port Angeles. Urgent dental care will be available, including extractions. The fair runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Bus transportation is free to the event from anywhere in Clallam County.
“The SmileMobile travels around the state and logs about 60,000 miles a year. We’ll be coming back to the area this summer because of the need,” Rose said.
For more information or to make an appointment, call 888-286-9105. The Facebook page is at www.facebook.com/SmileMobileWA/.
Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Jeannie McMacken can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at [email protected].