Health Team

Clinics Care for Kids' Dental Needs

Posted October 3, 2007 5:32 p.m. EDT
Updated October 3, 2007 6:37 p.m. EDT

— Why do some children not get the dental care they need? The answer involves money, no insurance and dentists who limit their number of patients on Medicaid.

It was a big problem in and around Moore County, until one hospital took the lead.

Before 1997, children near Southern Pines, such as 10-year-old Tamara Graham, often went without dental care.

“In Rockingham, there's not that many dentists available that will actually take Medicaid,” said Rebecca Leak, Tamara’s mother.

School nurses in the area first pointed out the need for better dental care. They said it was the number one medical reason kids were absent from school.

“It does, causes them pain, keeps them up at night,” said Dr. Sharon Harrell, Dental Clinic director.

Harrell said after the first clinic opened children came in with long neglected problems with dental infections and swollen faces.

Since First Health Moore Regional established clinics in Southern Pines, Troy and Raeford - the most common problems are simple cavities.

At first, the demand was greater than the small clinics could handle.

“We had patients that needed treatment done and we had to book them out several weeks or months just because we didn't have the space,” Harrell said.

Now the Southern Pines clinic has more space with six operatories, two dentists and help from other local dentists and students from the UNC dental school.

The clinics see under-served kids up to age 18. Patients are typically on Medicaid or Health Choice. If they don't have either and they're uninsured, then they pay a $35 fee per visit.