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Dental clinic filling up; staff added as patient load swells

Ian Kreher

The Altoona Mirror recently published a story about the success of a local dental clinic:

LOCK HAVEN - The Clinton County Community Dental Clinic, just ending its first year providing dental care to local people, has added more staff to meet the ever-growing list of patients calling for appointments.

"In 2010 we served 897 new patients, within our 1,240 patients seen. We have over 1,900 in our system," said Laurie Weinreb-Welch, dental clinic coordinator.

"As we finish our first year at the clinic we have expanded with both staff and the ability to serve more patients. While we are still overwhelmed with the volume of patients who need care, we strive to serve as many as possible in as timely a manner."

According to Welch, the purpose of the clinic is to serve all ACCESS patients in Clinton County and all who fall within Federal Poverty Income guidelines.

"We have had many people approach us who fall slightly above our cut-off and it's difficult to turn them away, but we don't want to compete with our local dental providers. While our initial grant funds were significantly cut, we still operate as a nonprofit clinic and we work to seek grant opportunities," Welch said.

The clinic has four dentists who serve the residents of Clinton County. Each of them gives up a day from their private practice to see patients at the clinic, located at 218 N. Grove St.

"All of them are dentists who have a heart for our mission, and one of them even drives 60 miles each way to be here. Sometimes he has two days scheduled in a week," said Welch.

This fall, the clinic has partnered with the Pennsylvania College of Technology to provide prophies (dental cleanings) to patients. PCT brings an instructor and three to four dental hygiene students a few times each month.

According to Welch, this provides a win-win for both the clinic and PCT, as the clinic incurs no payroll overhead, the patients receive excellent care and students receive real world experience with the oversight of a seasoned dental professional.

"All of our hygenists have come through the PCT program and are top notch," Welch said. "We recently completed the addition of a third operatory room. This allows our dentist to treat more patients per day. Since it is a recent addition, we have been testing the scheduling and working with the dentists to make sure that each patient receives the best quality of care."

The clinic hopes to be able to hire a full time dental assistant to fully utilize the third room in the new year.

Other goals for the future include offering more patient education.

"Often patients just don't take the time to obtain regular and preventative dental care. This often leads to pain and a lower level of dental health. We'd much rather work with a patient to develop a treatment plan that will allow them to be healthy and keep them out of pain," Welch said.

The Clinton County Community Dental Clinic is supported by the Clinton County United Way.