KINGSPORT, Tenn. (AP) — Remote Area Medical is stepping up its efforts to meet a huge need for dental care in Appalachia with what could be the first of several mobile dental clinics.
The Rockford-based charity that recruits volunteers to provide free medical care to the needy often has to turn away dental patients.
The Kingsport Times-News reports (http://bit.ly/1xBOcBl) a new mobile clinic inside a donated trailer will help with the overflow crowds at RAM events. It also is expected to hold separate dental events in the Tri-Cities region 12 to 15 times a year.
The clinic will be staffed by volunteers and provide primary care such as cleaning and fillings, offering referrals to patients with more complicated needs.
If the clinic is successful, RAM plans to duplicate it in other parts of Appalachia.
Frank Waldo is one of the volunteers working on the project. He said the mobile clinic should take only about 30 minutes to set up rather than the many hours it takes to set up the temporary dental stations for a RAM event.
A typical three-day RAM event draws in thousands of people seeking care and 70 to 80 percent of those need dental care. Waldo said that at the last RAM event 75 dentists worked non-stop for three days. Although they were able to help about 3,000 people, they still had to turn some away.
Bruce Sites, project manager for the mobile dental clinic, said he hopes to have it up and running by early August. Although they have received several large donations, they still need another $100,000 to finish outfitting the 53-foot trailer with five dental stations and a sixth station that will be able to function for either dental care or eye exams.
Initially, the unit will serve Sullivan and Hawkins counties in Tennessee and Scott County, Va., although Sites said he would like to see it eventually used in other parts of upper northeastern Tennessee.
"If this works this will be the first unit of the RAM Appalachian Health Care initiative," Sites said. "RAM would duplicate this setup and move up the Appalachian chain to take care of the overwhelming need for dental care."
Information from: Kingsport Times-News, http://www.timesnews.net