The People’s Health & Wellness Clinic of Barre is expanding the availability of free oral health check-ups for low-income residents of central Vermont, thanks to a major gift from the Central Vermont Medical Center, a member of The University of Vermont Health Network.
Since last November, the free clinic has offered dental hygiene services to its patients one day a week. A $10,000 donation from the hospital will enable the clinic’s dental hygienist to work additional hours and see patients on a second weekday.
“There is a large need for better access to dental care services in Vermont. More than 30 percent of uninsured adult Vermonters have gone without needed dental care because they could not afford it, according to the recent state health insurance survey,” said Peter Youngbaer, executive director of the People’s Health & Wellness Clinic. “This generous gift from the Central Vermont Medical Center is a huge boost in helping us fill this gap.”
“It’s important for everyone to be able to access dental care, as oral health has a significant impact on a person’s overall well-being,” said Judy Tartaglia, president and CEO of Central Vermont Medical Center. “The program model that the People’s Health & Wellness Clinic uses has worked very well during the last four months and we’re very pleased to support its expansion.”
One of the clinic’s medical exam rooms has been converted to a dental care space. Dental hygienist and Oral Health Case Manager Samantha Petrone, who is employed by the clinic, provides cleanings, periodontal charting of the status of teeth and gums, and oral health education. She works under a supervisory agreement with a local dentist, Dr. Rick Venmar, a longtime supporter of the clinic’s work. Patients who are in need of additional treatment are referred to local volunteering dentists.
So far, the clinic’s dental program has helped dozens of low-income patients find relief from painful and embarrassing dental problems. For example, an 81-year-old woman suffered from poor nutrition because she lacked teeth and could not chew her food properly. After consulting the clinic’s oral health case manager and a volunteer dentist, she now has a new set of dentures, is eating healthier foods, and is able to smile for the first time in years.
To be eligible for free dental services, patients must not have dental insurance and meet the clinic’s income guidelines. All services are by appointment only. Patients can call the clinic at 802-479-1229 to make an appointment.
The People’s Health & Wellness Clinic still needs to raise $3,500 to fully implement the expansion, Youngbaer noted. “With supplies, the cost of a second day of providing dental care is $13,500 for the entire year. This donation from CVMC enables us to add hygienist hours for three-quarters of the year, and now we need other donors to help us keep it going year-round.”
Donations to the People’s Health & Wellness Clinic can be made online at http://www.phwcvt.org, by calling the clinic at 802-479-1229, or by mailing a check to the clinic at 553 North Main Street, Barre, VT 05641.