Thursday, 07 December 2023

Local partnership provides free dental care for Lake County children

Dr. Lorraine Prisbrey, a dentist at Lakeside Health Center, explains the course of treatment to Autum Martinez. Courtesy photo.



LAKEPORT – As the failing economy increases the number of families that cannot afford adequate dental services for their children, so does the importance of community caring.

On Feb. 6, in honor of National Give Kids a Smile Day, dentists Lorraine Prisbrey and John Jenkins from Lakeside Health Center, along with dental assisting staff, provided care to 21 children.

Dental services included exams, x-rays, cleanings, oral hygiene instruction, fluoride varnish treatments, sealants, fillings and extractions.

The effort was undertaken in partnership with Lake County Office of Education's Healthy Start Program and Marta Fuller of Lake County Public Health and First 5 Lake Oral Health Project.

As part of Healthy Start’s ongoing mission to promote the health of Lake County’s children, staffer Missy Hill identified Lake County kids with significant oral health needs and who do not have dental coverage.

Often, these are children from working families whose income makes them ineligible for public insurance programs.

Marcie and Anthony Martinez were among the many families who brought in their children for treatment: Autum (12) and Damion (8) received exams, x-rays cleanings and sealants. Autum got two fillings.

According to their dad, “I am a skilled construction worker, and I’ve always been able to provide for my family. But when I lost my work, I lost my health insurance. Even though my kids qualify for Healthy Families insurance, most local dentists aren’t willing to accept it. They tell me that the program doesn’t cover the actual costs of the care. I very grateful that Lakeside Health Center was willing to help out my kids.”

Children Now, a leading nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to assuring all children have the opportunity to achieve their full potential, estimates that over 1.7 million California children do not have dental insurance.

A one-day event like Give Kids A Smile Day isn’t a cure-all for such a large-scale problem, but it is a wake-up call about the need of local children for basic oral care.

However, a meaningful volunteer service like that offered by Lakeside Health Center does not create a meaningful health care system that helps children get the dental care they so desperately need. Without the commitment and knowledge of Healthy Start staff, the voluntary contribution of Dr. Prisbrey and Jenkins and their staff, such an effort would not have been possible.

Established in 1999, Lakeside Health Center is one of three nonprofit health facilities operated by Mendocino Community Health Clinic Inc. As a federally qualified health center, it is governed by its community.

If you are interested in participating through its Board of Directors, please contact Kathy MacDougall at 707-462-4511.

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