By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News
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Larry Little, executive director of the nonprofit VIMO, announced that the Washington Dental Service Foundation awarded the three-year grant to bring the Access to Baby and Child Dentistry program to Clallam and Jefferson counties.
Access to Baby and Child Dentistry is a public-private partnership that is managed by dental foundation to provide oral-health care to eligible babies and children up to age 6.
It identifies Medicaid-eligible children, removes barriers that prevent low-income families from getting their kids to the dentist, works to recruit and train specialists and teaches primary care doctors to deliver preventive oral health care at check ups, according to www.abcddental.org.
In addition, VIMO this month will begin to provide a more comprehensive oral care program to address an “overwhelming need for adult oral health care for those unable to afford care,” Little said in an email.
Dr. Tom Locke, public health officer for Clallam and Jefferson counties, said the program has been active in the state for more than
“We have tried to get it started in Clallam County and Jefferson counties at various times over the last decade, and just could not find an agency or organization that was able to staff it,” Locke said.
“Elsewhere in the state, it's been a very successful program at getting children in to see dentists at earlier ages.”
The VIMO clinic in Port Angeles serves about 1,400 patients who don't have adequate health insurance with primary care, dental care and related services.
“A lot of parents have a mistaken notion that children don't need to see a dentist until they are 3 or 4,” Locke said, “when, in fact, we know that it's very important that children start to be seen when their teeth emerge, usually around year 1.”
United Way's Access to Health Care, the Olympic Peninsula Dental Society, Locke and others in the greater medical community have sought to bring the ABCD program to the Peninsula for more than a decade, Little said.
“The main thing the grant provides is it creates a coordinator position,” Locke said.
VIMO used a portion of the grant to hire former dental assistant Susan Gile to coordinate the program in Clallam and Jefferson counties.
“She just started full-time with us,” VIMO Development Coordinator Zoe Apisdorf said.
“She's absolutely thrilled about it.”
Gile will facilitate public education and work with families to link kids up with dentists, Locke said.
Of the North Olympic Peninsula children whose families are on Medicaid, only about a quarter are being seen by a dentist.
“One goals of the ABCD program is to change that,” said Locke, who serves on the Washington Dental Service Foundation board.
With sealants, fluoride and good hygiene, most oral disease is preventable, Locke said.
“The biggest part of the problem is parents just don't know how important it is for children to have their teeth checked,” Locke said.
Of the 3,100 children up to age 6 who are eligible for Medicaid in Clallam County, only 950 are being seen by a dentist, Apisdorf said.
In Jefferson County, 375 of the 984 eligible children are going to the dentist.
“We're hoping for an increase of 2 percent in the amount of kids seen,” Apisdorf said of the grant.
With the addition of Clallam and Jefferson counties, the Access to Baby and Child Dentistry program covers the entire state.
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.