By Dawn Krebs
ST. LUCIE COUNTY -- When news came out that the state is improving in its efforts on making affordable dental care available to children, it came as no surprise to the residents of St. Lucie County.
That's because for the last two years, the HANDS clinic, part of the St. Lucie County Health Access Network, has been working tirelessly to provide not only free dental care to eligible uninsured and underinsured residents, but medical care as well.
So far, more than 2,300 residents have used the services, and more than 300 medical and dental professional have stepped up to volunteer their time and expertise to help.
In March 2012, HANDS opened its state-of-the-art adult dental clinic. In addition, the organization has a children's dental program in place that has seen more than 7,500 children in the county.
"Since the creation of the pediatric dental program, we have seen a huge decrease in children with major dental issues in St. Lucie County Schools," said Christania Selph, the HANDS clinic manager in a press release. "It's a great feeling, knowing the programs we offer are making a difference in the children."
One of the programs recently completed by the dental program was the Project Toothbrush drive.
Running from October 2012 to January of 2013, the drive collected toothbrushes and dental supplies for children. Also, the St. Lucie County Oral Health Coalition, in combination with the St. Lucie County School District and the St. Lucie County Health Department, currently offers free dental screenings to students from the Prekindergarten level through second grade.
Over the summer, the program travels to summer camps to screen the children.
"As we go into our third year, this program is demonstrating remarkable results in improving children's oral health," said St. Lucie County Health Department Director Larry Lee in a press release. "We would love to keep bringing this program to every school and summer program in the county."
For more information about the pediatric dental program, go online to www.handsofslc.org.