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Mobile clinic starts rounds

St. Elizabeth introduces latest vehicle to provide dental care

YOUNGSTOWN — If you need routine or advanced dental care but can’t get to a dentist, a new, state-of-the-art vehicle likely will be making a stop near you.

“One of our biggest initiatives is to provide dental care, especially in rural areas,” said Dr. M. Frank Beck, director of the St. Elizabeth Dental Clinic and its residency programs.

That goal has been enhanced and expanded, courtesy of a new mobile dental clinic that was unveiled during a blessing and open house Friday afternoon at St. Elizabeth Youngstown Hospital’s dental clinic on Covington Street.

The $450,000 vehicle, which has two treatment rooms and is to begin its travels Monday, is the third in a fleet of such traveling dental clinics that serve patients in Mahoning, Trumbull, Columbiana and Carroll counties. Services will include routine preventive care and cleanings as well as extractions, root canals and fillings, Beck noted.

Last year, the two mobile clinics served nearly 1,700 patients at more than 125 sites, including schools, day care centers, libraries, detention centers, homeless shelters, soup kitchens, health fairs, senior-citizens centers, emergency departments and assisted-living facilities. Beck also noted the newest addition should increase patient capacity up to 25 percent.

“This year, with the new unit, we expect to serve somewhere around 2,000 or 2,100 individuals,” Beck said.

In addition, Mercy Health is to begin collaborating with Mahoning County Veterans Services to ensure a greater number of veterans receive proper care, he continued.

Beck also warned that

inadequate dental care can cause or greatly contribute to an array of other, serious health problems.

“A lot of people don’t realize that there is a very strong connection between poor oral health and other health issues such as heart disease and opioid addiction,” he said.

Along those lines, people who suffer from gum disease face a higher risk of heart attack and acute dental pain, the latter of which is sometimes treated with opioids. That can set the stage for addiction — especially if the underlying cause of the pain goes untreated, Beck explained.

The mobile dental clinic also is to replace the first such vehicle, which is about 19 years old and was a medical van before being retrofitted to offer similar dental services, he continued.

In addition, the latest mobile clinic should go a long way toward breaking down certain barriers that keep some people from seeing a dentist.

“Expanding access to dental care and our capacity to care for more patients is extremely important. Access to dental care is an ongoing problem in our community. It is consistently identified as an unmet need by our community health-needs assessment, and in many instances is identified as the No. 1 unmet need,” said Paul Homick Jr., Mercy Health Foundation Mahoning Valley’s president.

Major reasons for the problem include a lack of insurance, transportation or time to schedule appointments, he said.

Homick added that he’s grateful for the support of numerous donors that made the new mobile unit possible.

The traveling clinic can schedule up to 10 adults per day per site, while at other locations, operates on a first-come, first-served basis, said Stephanie Gay, practice manager for the dental-care clinics.

Also, financial assistance is available to those who meet requirements, she noted.

Other features on the vehicle include waiting and reception areas, along with a table for registration.

For information regarding where and how to set up an appointment, call 330-480-3689.