Children around Moffat County should have good reason to smile. The Miles for Smiles dentistry van has rolled into Craig.
The Miles for Smiles van is part of a traveling dentistry program dedicated to improving the oral health of children in communities throughout Colorado, who otherwise may not have the opportunity to get dental care.
The staff can be found in a multi-colored touring bus, which is used as their dentist's office. The bus is currently parked south of the Craig Mental Health facility on Breeze Street and works in very much the same way as a regular dentist's office.
"On staff we have a dentist, a dental assistant, and an administrative assistant," Miles for Smiles local coordinator Robin McKenzie said. "The administrative assistant is also a dental assistant, but most of the time she focuses on just the paperwork aspect of the program."
The program is part of the statewide Kids in Need of Dentistry (KIND) program, which is dedicated to finding ways of providing dental care to children without dental insurance. KIND services were brought to Craig with the help of the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, who helped to establish funding for the program.
"We saw the need for a dental program to be started here in Craig because there are a lot of children who slip through the cracks," McKenzie said. "Whether it be that their parents own their own business, or hold jobs that don't offer a dental plan, there are a lot of kids out there who don't have coverage and can use assistance."
Visits to the Miles for Smiles van cost $15 plus 10 percent of any services performed, which is a slight increase from last year's cost. Last year, participants paid $10 plus a percent of the cost of services performed.
"We have been attempting to get the prices stabilized for the last few years, but there are a lot of costs associated with the van such as gas, lodging and per diems," she said. "Regardless, it is still a small price to pay for quality dental care for children that may not have it now."
One problem facing the Miles for Smiles program is the inability to provide care for children on Medicaid. With many local dentists not willing to work on Medicaid patients and unwilling to provide follow-up appointments, it leaves the Miles for Smiles program in a difficult position.
"Right now, we aren't able to work on children who are on Medicaid," McKenzie said. "If there isn't a dentist willing to work on a child after we do our initial work, it isn't going to help them much. However, it is a problem that we are trying very hard to find a solution to, so we are very aware that the problem exists."
The program is open to children from infancy to age 18, and the dentists are even equipped to see infants with dental problems. If an infant has a problem that requires a follow-up visit, or shows symptoms of periodontal disease, they may have to make a drive to see a dentist in the Denver area.
"For a child under 3 that shows major problems, such as baby bottle disease, they may have to be referred to a dentist or periodontist in Denver," she said. "The cost is going to be the same for seeing the dentist there as it would be for a regular trip to the van. With this being a statewide program, it offers us flexibility in the way we work, as well as a cooperative effort between different agencies."
Parents who are interested in the Miles for Smiles program can contact Robin McKenzie about applications at 824-1178, or e-mail her at www.Dentalcoalition@aol.com