RAEFORD – Each of the three FirstHealth Dental Care Centers has its own personality. The Raeford clinic has an especially positive one.
It is known as the clinic where patients are always early, never late, for their appointments.
“I can’t explain it,” says Sharon Nicholson Harrell, DDS, Dental Care Center director.
A recent grant from the National Children’s Oral Health Foundation will help assure that even more young Hoke County residents have appointments to be early for. By offsetting salary costs, the $10,000 America’s Toothfairy Grant will allow the Hoke Dental Care Center to add extra clinic days to its already busy schedule.
The National Children’s Oral Health Foundation is the only independent non-profit national children’s health organization that exclusively focuses on supporting delivery of comprehensive oral health care for underserved children. Since 2006, the organization has distributed more than $6.5 million in direct funding, donated dental products and technical resources to the affiliate network to expand and enhance critical oral health services for their local communities.
Open since 1999, the FirstHealth Dental Care Center-Raeford currently operates two days a week – on Wednesdays and Thursdays – with occasional Friday and Saturday hours. The new funding will provide an additional 10 to 12 clinic days to accommodate an expected average of 19 patients for each five-hour session.
Because of the center’s limited clinic time, some patients have had to wait up to four months for appointments, which increases the likelihood of dental emergencies, Dr. Harrell points out. “That’s unacceptable to me,” she says, “clinically and professionally.”
The additional clinic time will help decrease the amount of time between patient appointments for diagnostic, preventive, emergency and restorative services.
One dentist, one hygienist, three dental assistants and two front-desk employees comprise the current clinic’s staff. Most are longtime employees, including dental assistant Dena Locklear who has been a member of the staff since the center opened almost 13 years ago. Several members of the staff reside in the Raeford/Hoke County area.
“That’s a real plus,” Dr. Harrell says.
To be eligible for services at the FirstHealth Dental Care Centers, patients must demonstrate Medicaid or N.C. HealthChoice eligibility or provide documented proof of a family income below 200 percent of the poverty level. According to statistics from the Southern Rural Development Center, the 2009 child poverty rate in Hoke County was 30.1 percent, up from the 2008 rate of 26.4.
FirstHealth of the Carolinas provides dental care programs for uninsured and underinsured children in Hoke, Moore and Montgomery counties. For more information on the FirstHealth Dental Care Centers, call (800) 213-3284.