A mobile dental unit will soon hit the road in Las Cruces to take dental care to some of the community’s most vulnerable residents.
Doña Ana Community College (DACC), Delta Dental of New Mexico and the NMSU Foundation today announced a new partnership that establishes a mobile dental unit to take DACC’s Dental Clinic services into the community. Happy Smiles on the Road will start this fall.
Delta Dental Board Member and long-time Las Cruces dentist, Ralph McElmurry, DDS, presented DACC President Dr. Renay Scott and Dental Hygiene Director Elmer Gonzalez with a $30,000 check to purchase the portable dental equipment that is making the new initiative possible. The portable dental unit includes a dental chair, cart, x-ray and other needed equipment.
“Today’s grant continues Delta Dental of New Mexico’s decades-long involvement in the Doña Ana community and southern New Mexico. As New Mexico’s only nonprofit dental benefits plan, it is Delta Dental’s mission to expand access to oral health care and promote dental science. We are pleased to do both with today’s grant. Congratulations to DACC for recognizing the need for mobile dental services in our beautiful state,” McElmurry said.
DACC Dental Hygiene Program Director Elmer Gonzalez is excited about the new mobile dental unit delivering dental care. The unit will travel to community partners like Lynn Middle School and the Amador Health Care Center formerly known as St. Lukes Health Care Clinic. The Amador Health Clinic provides medical care to the homeless and near homeless in the region. Lynn Middle School is part of the Las Cruces Public School’s Community Schools program. A dentist and dental hygienist from Ben Archer Health Center will provide dental services at the middle school and will be assisted by the DACC students.
“This initiative provides DACC students the opportunity to gain ample experience in the field by practicing their skills under faculty supervision while providing community service,” Gonzalez said. “Students will be better prepared to enter the workforce and serve their communities by working in dental public health settings.”
Only 62% of Doña Ana County adults had a dental visit in the preceding 12 months, according to a 2016 report from New Mexico’s Indicator-Based Information System. The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that 18.6 percent of New Mexico children had one or more oral health problems reported in 2016.
“We are so thankful for our partners in this effort,” said Dr. Renay Scott, President of Doña Ana Community College. “First of all we thank Delta Dental for their support, as well as Lynn Middle School and the Las Cruces Public Schools, Ben Archer Health Center and Amador Health Clinic. Together we will make a difference for many who are in need of these services.”
“This is a phenomenal opportunity to help those in our community who cannot afford dental care,” said Pamela Angell, CEO of Amador Health Center. “People don’t always understand the connection between dental care and physical, social and mental well-being.”
Diabetes, heart disease, and stroke, have all been linked to a lack of oral health according to a 2011 report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Researchers are finding more evidence of plaque and tooth decay leading to more serious health threats and chronic diseases.
Dental care is vital for children as well. According to the CDC, tooth decay (cavities) is one of the most common chronic conditions of childhood in the U. S. Untreated tooth decay can cause pain and infections that may lead to problems with eating, speaking, playing and learning.
- 1 of 5 children aged 5 to 11 years have at least one untreated decayed tooth
- 1 of 7 adolescents aged 12 to 19 years have at least one untreated decayed tooth
- The percentage of children and adolescents aged 5 to 19 years with untreated tooth decay is twice as high for those from low-income families (25%) compared to high income households (11%).
photos: NMSU Chancellor Dan Arvizu is greeted by DACC Dental Hygiene Director Elmer Gonzalez as dental hygiene students look on
President and CEO of Delta Dental Edward Lopez and Delta Dental Board Member Ralph McElmurry present a check to DACC Dental Hygiene students, Dr. Renay Scott and Dental Director Elmer Gonzalez