The first dental clinic run by Harford County opened officially last week in Edgewood with a ribbon cutting, but the facility has been treating patients since March 31. That has been long enough for 8-year-old Razell Fogle to have a cracked tooth repaired and another filled. He smiled broadly, showing off his recently cleaned teeth, as he helped cut the ribbon.
With no dental insurance, Julia Fogle had no idea when she would be able to find money for her son's dental needs, until the clinic, in Edgewood Plaza Shopping Center on Hanson Road, offered her free care.
"I could not find a dentist willing to fix his cracked tooth," she said. "The clinic did a good job."
John M. Colmers, secretary of the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, told the crowd of about 100 gathered for the ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday that dental disease is the most chronic childhood malady and the most preventable.
"This clinic is a shining example of the political will and the partnership with the private sector," Colmers said. "It is the living embodiment of our commitment to make dental care available to all Maryland residents."
A child-themed mural decorates the waiting room in the 1,100-square-foot space in a storefront. A hallway leads to three dental chairs that can accommodate as many as 20 patients a day.
"We have been busy since we opened," said Brenda Turner, clinic secretary.
Many families in the area cannot afford dental insurance or costly procedures for their children. The clinic will stress preventive care and provide operative dentistry, restoration and extractions for some of the 7,000 children in the county who are eligible for medical assistance but have little access to a dentist, officials said.
A $435,000 grant from the Maryland Community Health Resources Commission, a state agency that addresses shortages in health care, allowed the county to lease and start up the clinic, which will serve children on medical assistance and eventually expand to adults. Another $200,000 from the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has helped with the purchase of equipment.
"There are so many young people and elderly who need dental care and are not getting it," said Dr. King Smith, a Bel Air dentist and member of the state dental board, who plans to volunteer at the clinic. "I am hoping many more dentists volunteer here. Dental health is so important. Everything starts in the mouth and infections can spread from there."
Julia Fogle has already scheduled her son's next six-month check-up.
"I am going to brush every day," Razell said. "And I am coming back in November."