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Mobile clinic will soon offer free dental care

By AMELIA HEAGERTY

Staff Writer

Islanders who can’t afford dental care will have a chance to visit a dentist Sept. 25, when a dental van rolls into town to see Vashon patients.

The van, equipped with two dental chairs and all the tools dentists and hygienists need to treat patients, will park at Vashon Presbyterian Church and see 12 patients during the day.

The goal is to help low-income individuals who might not otherwise have any dental care at all, said dental assistant Heather Robinson, who facilitated the van’s stop on Vashon. The clinic will see patients who have pain or cavities as well as those who simply need their teeth cleaned.

“I don’t think there is any (free dental care) on the Island,” she said.

A former dental assistant for Dr. Ann Mayeda, Robinson said she’s seen deplorable dental conditions on Vashon that made her realize Islanders need opportunities to receive low-cost or free dental care.

“I’ve seen blown out, rotted teeth all the way down to the core,” she said. “We see huge decay rates because of lack of fluoride.”

She’s seen young Islanders have teeth pulled because they are rotted, she added.

“Twenty-year-olds should not be coming in and having teeth pulled,” Robinson said. “That’s the only op-tion some people have. It’s not right to start losing your teeth at that age in America.”

Robinson has also done dental work in Mexico and said she’s seen conditions in Islanders’ mouths that are similar to what she sees in the developing nation.

“It’s almost the same here, and it’s a shame that it would be that way in the States,” she said. “It’s just maddening.”

Robinson, a dentist and two hygienists — all volunteering their time — will work the six-hour dental clinic, she said. Dr. Stephen Edwards, who works with soldiers at Fort Lewis, will be the clinic’s dentist.

“There are so many people, especially kids, who are limited in their access to dental care,” Edwards said. “A lot of times dental care gets pushed to the back seat, but it can have such a serious impact on kids’ development and education — it may have an impact on their attention span when they have a tooth ache, for example.”

The van coming to Vashon is owned by Medical Teams International, a Christian global health organization.

Robinson said she’s hopeful that the van will come back to the Island in October as well, because there is such a demand for free dental care.

“We see patients come and go, who just don’t have the money to take care of serious problems,” she said. “This is so badly needed.”

Islanders who are below the federal poverty level may sign up for an appointment at the dental van clinic on Friday, Sept. 25, by calling Robinson at 463-9032.

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