EXCHANGE: Dentists on the move in Will County

By

JOLIET, Ill. (AP) — Michelle Bankston loves having her children's teeth cleaned by Will County's mobile dental service.

The Will County Health Department offers dental service to anyone in the county their van can reach. The van's interior looks like a dentist's office with dental chairs and computer equipment. Close by is a waiting room with a TV playing cartoons for the children who await their cleanings.

One of them was Bankston's son, Maurice, 11, who is not a fan of the fluoride the dentists put in his mouth. But his mom thinks it's fantastic.

"My husband has private insurance but it's terrible," Bankston said. "With this, they bill my insurance and a grant picks up the difference, so my kids can get their teeth done. It doesn't cost me out of pocket."

Will County has been running the mobile dental service van since late 2011, after receiving in 2010 a grant to start the program. Between 2012 and 2013, the van service has treated 1,641 patients. Funding received from the state ended in 2013, and now the program is supported by Will County, United Way, Orland Park Dental Services and Miles of Smiles.

"Our goal is to serve as many patients as possible," said Sangita Garg, dental director for Will County Community Health Center. "Some of these patients seen in the mobile van cannot get their treatment, and they are referred to a dental clinic."

The mobile van will travel to homeless shelters, women's shelters, health fairs, schools and universities. At first, the van traveled twice a week but now goes out three times a week. Many of the patients are underprivileged and come from underserved areas, Garg said.

"Some of these kids, they haven't heard of flossing and they really need to floss and brush their teeth," said Lendita Istogu, a dental assistant who's been working for the mobile service since it began.

She said the service helps parents get their children ready for school and helps detect cavities early on.

Sanayiaha Lovelace, 9, said she's visited the van many times before. She's not a fan of the numbing substances put in her mouth but she likes the treatment.

"They make my teeth clean," she said.

Lovelace goes to the Playhouse day care in University Park, which has been receiving visits from the mobile dental service for the past few years, said Bankston, the director at the day care. She said the van visits every six months.

Garg said the dentists in the mobile van will do fillings and simple extractions, which they didn't do in the first year of the service. They will also start providing preventative services such as exams and fluoride treatment.

"Our goal is prevention and education at a young age," Garg said. "We try to go to day cares, and we try to use fluoride treatment to prevent diseases."

___

Online: The (Joliet) Herald-News, http://bit.ly/1t1nqUd

___

Information from: The Herald-News, http://www.suburbanchicagonews.com/heraldnews

©2014 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.