MSHA awards grant to Keystone Dental Care, Inc.

  JOHNSON CITY -- To thousands, dental care is low on the list of necessities. The cost of taking care of one's teeth, an expense that is often not included in a budget, can be overwhelming to adults who care for a family and all that entails.
  Mountain States Health Alliance (MSHA) has awarded a $5,000 grant to Keystone Dental Care, Inc., to help with its services to those 21 and older who are homeless or indigent.
  "We get hundreds of calls from those who need dental care," said Sandra Palmer, Clinic Coordinator since February. Keystone Dental Care has been in operation five years. In that time, Palmer said, 3,145 patients have received more than 10,000 procedures, all free of charge.
  An individual qualifies for treatment at Keystone based on their household income and the number of people in a household. "We use the 2004 Health and Human Services Poverty Guidelines to screen patients. We're here to serve those who have the greatest need and the least resources. We're different from other health agencies in that services are free; we have no sliding scale; patients need not have a job, and patients cannot have TennCare coverage," Palmer explained.
  A number of regional dentists volunteer their services for whole or partial days at the clinic, and the funding for services comes solely from grants and donations. She said, "We are so grateful to Mountain States Health Alliance for this grant. It's going to make a big difference. Because MSHA helped us, we can help more people." Palmer said the grant money will be used to "try to contract a dentist to work one day a week," for continuity of care and for (being able to provide) dentures.
  "Those who have bad teeth sometimes end up in the hospital emergency room and are given antibiotics. But it's like putting a band-aid on something that is not treated. With bad teeth, people acquire a multitude of problems such as poor digestion from improperly chewed food. There is always danger of infection spreading to the bloodstream, as well," Palmer said.
  Patients may call for appointments one hour before the clinic opens. The monthly clinic schedule is posted on the outside of the clinic office, or can be obtained by calling the clinic office, located inside the Keystone Community Center on Bert Street. Keystone Dental Care has about seven to 10 clinics each month. "My dream is to be able to have a dentist in once a week so that continuity of care can be accomplished. A lab has agreed to help donate supplies and our goal is to eventually be able to fabricate dentures for those who need them. This is where continuity of care will be so important," Palmer added.
  Palmer said word of mouth is good advertisement for Keystone Dental Care, but last week, a volunteer dentist worked 20 patients into a day and a half of work. On another clinic day, 10 patients were seen in half a day. "That's a lot," said Palmer. She added that with grants such as received from MSHA, the work of the clinic can increase and help so many more people who so desperately need the services. The number of clinics and patients served is dependent upon the volunteer dentists. This is always a need for volunteer dentists, Palmer said, and any dentist who is willing to volunteer would "certainly be welcomed." Adding a contracted dentist, however, will allow the clinic to expand its much needed services.
  August clinics are set for Wednesday, Aug. 4, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Wednesday, Aug. 11, from 8 a.m. to noon for fillings only; Thursday, Aug. 12, and Friday, Aug. 13, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Tuesday, Aug. 17, and Wednesday, Aug. 18, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Monday, Aug. 30, from 8 a.m.-12 p.m. For more information, call (423) 232-7919.