Friendly Dental Van visits Thomasville
Dozens of Thomasville Primary School students on Feb. 18 paid a visit to the dentist without having to leave the campus as the Friendly Dental Van made its first stop in the Chair City.
The Friendly Dental Van visits schools across the state.
“We service a lot of areas around North Carolina and we just started here in Thomasville this year,” said Dr. Jody Grainer, a dentist who has spent the last 12 years working in the Friendly Dental Van. “It's a pretty nice program.”
Due to state cutbacks, Davidson County lost its dental hygienist who visited schools. To ensure that students without private dental insurance still would have access to care, Thomasville City Schools contacted the Friendly Dental Van, a Charlotte-based program that accepts Medicaid, Health Choice and regular insurance.
Students were given fliers earlier this year to sign up for the program, which will make two visits to Thomasville every year.
More than 60 students signed up at TPS alone. Some of them had serious dental issues due to a lack of regular visits to the dentist.
“Some of them don't get [dental] service at all and that's unfortunate,” said Daniel Muhtar, the Friendly Dental Van manager. “Local dentists just aren't accepting children who don't have regular insurance. We had 66 kids in our first signup here. It can be a little challenging but the kids actually did pretty good.”
The Friendly Dental Van on the outside may appear pretty normal, but inside is fully equipped with an X-ray machine, a staff of six, and four dental chairs which allows the staff to perform a variety of services — from extractions to fillings and cleanings.
“We have everything we need,” said Grainer. “It's basically a dental office in the van. We can do full dentistry in here.”
While a large percentage of children came out exited with nothing more than a cleaning and clear bill of dental health, some students required extensive work to their teeth. One kindergarten student needed six teeth pulled and another 10 cavities filled.
“I don't think he's ever been to the dentist,” Muhtar said. “It's really sad what we see sometimes.”
Not every student who signed up for the Friendly Dental Van got to see the dentist on Tuesday. Grainer said his staff usually can treat up to 45 patients in a day, and with 66 signed up, the ones who didn't get in on Tuesday will receive treatment when the van returns.
“If we don't finish, we'll come back in a few weeks,” said Grainer. “We will see them all.”
Third grader Anna Faulk was more afraid of the van than what was waiting for her inside it.
“It's kind of high and I'm kind of afraid of heights so I'm a little nervous,” said Anna, 9. “It is pretty cool. I don't have any cavities.”
Grainer said his staff also stresses the importance of oral hygiene to students. Old adages like daily brushing and flossing still are the best ways to prevent cavities.
“We try to emphasize that on every visit and we come back so we know if they're showing signs of improvement,” said Grainer. “A lot of the kids have excellent teeth and are in good health.”
The Friendly Dental Van made a stop at all four city campuses, treating 14 students at Liberty Drive Elementary, nine at Thomasville Middle School and three at Thomasville High School. For more information on the program, visit friendlydentalvan.com.
Staff Writer Eliot Duke can be reached at 888-3578, or firstname.lastname@example.org.