Photo by Jeylin White
Zidon Rice, 3, (left) and his sister Za’Niah, 5, got their teeth cleaned for the first time through “Help a Child Smile” mobile dental program. Since 1994, after 14 years of family practice, founder Dr. Mark Shurett decided to take dentistry to the children via a mobile visiting schools, libraries, churches and apartment complexes.
Chasity Rice, 26, of Riverdale, said she was just driving along Battle Creek Road, in Jonesboro, Thursday morning, when she glanced out of car her window and saw an enormous motor vehicle, stationed outside the Clayton County Headquarters Library, with a sign on its side that read ‘Help A Child Smile.”
School is out for Spring break she thought to herself. “So, I might as well stop and get my kids teeth cleaned,” said Rice.
Rice said her son, Zidon, 3, and her daughter, Za’Niah, 5, had never been to the dentist before primarily due to her hectic school schedule.
“It can be a challenge to get my children to scheduled dentist appointments,” she said.
For “Help A Child Smile” founder, Dr. Mark Shurett, getting children to the dentist seemed to be a common problem among many parents. Which is why in 1994, after 14 years of family practice, Shurett decided to take dentistry to the children via mobile through a program he developed called “Help A Child Smile.”
On Thursday, the dental mobile unit was parked outside the Clayton County Headquarters Library, located at 856 Battle Creek, Road, in Jonesboro, from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Eddie Ayala, manger fleet operations for the dental units, said the mobile dental program usually operates on days when students are out on break.
“We try to choose a central location that will be most convenient for parents to get to,” said Ayala. “Students who are in need of dental services, but who have not had opportunities to visit a dentist's office or who might have missed the last mobile services are the ones we come out to see.”
Ayala said there are currently 13 dental units that travel across the state offering dental services to children ages 4 and older. He said services include comprehensive dentistry such as cleanings, X-rays, fluoride treatments, sealants, exams, and cavity treatments. He added the dental services are not free but the following are accepted: Medicaid, Peachcare, most regular insurance, and cash.
“There is no cost to the schools,” he said. “We visits churches, apartment complexes, schools, the health departments anywhere that’s convenient for the parents.”
According to Ayala, the program has been well received by parents, children, board of education members, schools and the community as a whole.
“Help A Child Smile is successful because it cooperates and communicates with the local schools, school boards, as well as, district and regional public health dental directors,” said Ayala.
Carri Forde, dental team assistant manager, for “Help A Child” said scores of parents across showed up Thursday to utilize the services.
“We had appointments scheduled all the way past 4 p.m.,” said Forde, “We also had an abundance of walk-ins and had schedule parents around appointments.”
Ayala said it will be during the summer break when the mobile dental office will grace Clayton County again. He said no specific date or time has been set. For more information about the “Help A Child Smile” program visit, www.hcsga.com.