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Allentown Students Get Dental Hygiene

Allentown Students Get Dental Hygiene

The dental van named ‘miles of smiles’ made its grand entrance at Allentown Central Elementary School last week. The 13 foot van carried a host of busy staff, all planning with nervous excitement, the launch of the dental van program in the area. The staff was found busy making final checks on plastic gowns, drills, toothpaste and paperwork. The van has two dental examination rooms for students who have low incomes.

John Ziegler is a retired dentist of the area who will be manning the dental van on alternate days, together with another dentist. He has been practicing privately for the past 40 years and is now retired. He will be manning the van for five days a week.

The first patient walked in for the program at 9 am and thereby launched the first mobile dental clinic for Lehigh Valley Health Network. Other schools like Bethlehem are already serviced by such vans. However, prior to this, Allentown school district did not have such a facility. This has been especially useful because the area is home to a number of patients who cannot receive private services because dentists just won’t accept Medicaid patients.

The program has been designed to provide dental care facilities without compromising on the time children spend in school or the working hours of the parents. Though the program was launched at Central Elementary School, it will also be attending schools like Sheridan, Roosevelt and Washington elementary schools. The van is expected to reach those schools by May.

The first patient, Martin Neumann was a case in point. Martin could hardly remember the last time he had been to a dentist. However, his problems were the least of the lot because he practiced good oral hygiene. However, he did have some oral cavities that were revealed by the x ray. He was given an appointment for the following week and was sent off with a bag of goodies!

Within two hours of the start of the program, the team received a call from the Muhlenberg elementary school. They reported the case of a girl who had a severe toothache and a swollen face. The girl could not speak English and so, an interpreter was arranged for. Transportation was also arranged for the mother and her four kids to be with the child during the examination. This was a god gifted opportunity for the kid because under normal circumstances, she would have to wait until the nurse found a dentist who would accept Medicaid patients.

The concept has been a popular one and dentists have been asking for such a facility for years. In Carbon County, for instance, there is a mobile van that serves five school districts. The st. Luke’s van receives funding form Medicaid. The program costs about $1million in the first year. This includes costs for the van and equipments. It is also partly funded by a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Health and Capital Blue Cross. Dentists believe that the program has been a roaring success!

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