Program serves people with limited dental care access

SmileMobile travels across Washington, will be in Clarkston



The SmileMobile dental program well be in Clarkston, Washington to provide dental health services to individuals who don’t have access to dental services.

SHANEL HAYNES, Evergreen reporter

The SmileMobile dental program provides oral health care to children, teenagers, pregnant and postpartum women with limited access to dental care across the state of Washington.

SmileMobile dentists and staff provide services such as examinations, preventative services, minor surgery and fillings to patients, Karri Amundson SmileMobile program officer, said.

Rob Hoffman, principal of Grantham Elementary, said the SmileMobile van is more accessible to the community because it is located near the school.

“I think for our families who have a difficult time accessing dental care, this is a great way to bring the care to them,” he said.

The SmileMobile dental van has traveled across Washington State since 1995. The van visits over 30 different locations each year, she said.

According to the SmileMobile website the van is 39 feet long with two slide-outs creating more space to operate. The van also has three A-Dec operatories to accommodate children and pregnant women.

Amundson said the three chair dental van serves as a clinic and has treated over 40,000 children throughout the state and an average of 80 children, teens and pregnant women each week.

The program bills patients through Apple Health Medicaid, and has fees based on family income and size. Many programs don’t accept Medicaid so that is one of the reasons that the van travels, she said.

The program is a partnership between the Arcora Foundation and Seattle Children’s Hospital with support from the largest dental insurance company in the state Delta Dental of Washington. Delta Dental of Washington provides funding to the program. The company sees SmileMobile as a way to give back to communities within Washington state, she said.

The van is staffed by volunteers selected by the Arcora Foundation. “Volunteers must be licensed with the state of Washington as dental hygienics or registered as an assistant within Washington State to work on the SmileMobile,” she said.

When the SmileMobile van visits communities staff try to recruit as many volunteers as possible. Having contracted dentists working in the van helps when visiting more rural areas. In those rural areas there are fewer dentists and because of that the program also has contractors that work for us, she said.

“The van is already completely booked for the first day from what I heard, so I would consider that a success already,” Hoffman said.

Amundson said the goal of SmileMobile is to prevent oral health disease, expand access to dental care and increase the awareness of oral health.