A community health center now offers dental services to fill a big health gap in Springfield.
Rocking Horse Community Health Center identified dental care as the top unmet need in Clark County for children. About 14 percent of local children have never seen a dentist and 15 percent have untreated cavities, according to data from the health center.
The dental care clinic will open its doors Wednesday, Nov. 29, and is available to people in surrounding counties as well.
More than 32 percent of Clark County residents have had between one and five permanent teeth removed because of tooth decay or gum disease, according to the Community Health Assessment completed in 2015.
Springfield has many under-served populations, said Mark Duffy, a general dentist with Rocking Horse Community Health Center.
“People that are uninsured, people that have minimal dental insurance, people that haven’t seen a dentist in years,” Duffy said.
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Rocking Horse has worked on adding dental services since 2009, CEO Kent Youngman said.
“This dental care effort has been underway for a long period of time but we just really didn’t have the money to finish out and equip the facility,” Youngman said.
That was until a sizable donation from Michael H. and Pauline D. Chakeres made it possible, Youngman said. He declined to specify the amount of the donation.
All aspects of general dentistry will be offered to patients, Duffy said, with an emphasis of preventative care.
“Standard dentistry fillings, crowns and bridges, root canals, extractions — all of that stuff,” Duffy said.
The organization wants people to be educated from an early age so they can build good oral hygiene habits to carry throughout their lives.
Adults are also another at risk population, said Magdelyn Broady, Rocking Horse Community Health Center dental office manager.
“Dental health is a direct component of your overall health,” Broady said. “It’s very important to have good dental health in order to keep other things from being worse, like blood pressure or diabetes.”
The center is filling a void in the community, Duffy said.
“We serve all people … we are truly here to serve our community,” he said.
Rocking Horse is a federally qualified community health center that serves about 8,000 children and 5,000 adults each year. It offers a range of services, Youngman said, including women’s health care, chiropractic services, pediatrics, dentistry and psychiatry.
It also provides assistance to families such as diapers, clothing and car seats.
The center accepts Medicaid and private insurance. If patients don’t have insurance, it will work with them on a sliding fee scale.
“No one is turned away because they can’t pay for a service,” Youngman said. “We will work with people. We will do everything we can to assist them but no one is denied service based upon an inability to pay.”
The under-served will be served, he said, and it will provide services to people who have no other place to go.
“For many of our patients they would not have access to health care of any kind if Rocking Horse was not here,” Youngman said.
BY THE NUMBERS
8,000: Children served by Rocking Horse annually
14: Percent of community children who have never seen a dentist
15: Percent of children with untreated cavities
Source: Rocking Horse Community Health Center
The Springfield News-Sun digs into important stories about public health in Clark and Champaign counties, including recent stories on how the overdose crisis affects rural communities and the expansion of services at Mercy Health-Urbana Hospital.