Mounting evidence suggests that poor oral health plays a significant role in serious health problems, including heart disease and stroke.
For low-income individuals without access to dental care, poor oral health also has broader consequences: untreated decay and missing teeth
can impact their employment opportunities and self-esteem, creating a terrible cycle of pain and poverty.
Established in 1982, WV Health Right, Inc., is the state’s oldest and largest free and charitable clinic, providing comprehensive primary
and specialty medical and dental care to 28,000 low-income, uninsured and underinsured adults. In 2017, it entered into a unique collaboration with
local nonprofit, education, government and dental partners to create the Mobile Dental Unit to address barriers preventing West Virginians in rural communities
from accessing preventive dental care and treatment. The program provides preventive and restorative dental services, including dentures, both to low-income adults
who are either uninsured or have Medicaid or Medicare and to veterans ineligible for dental care through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
The Mobile Dental Unit, housed in a fully equipped trailer with three treatment chairs, travels across six rural counties on a weekly rotation with dental hygienists
and technicians. The Marshall University School of Medicine staffs the vehicle with a faculty dentist and dental residents, giving students a unique opportunity to
apply their skills beyond the classroom and incorporate diversity in learning. The other partners provide on-site access to the internet and utilities at no cost to the program.
“In just two years, the Mobile Dental Unit has provided more than $2.2 million worth of care to over 5,000 adults. We’re already seeing marked success in terms of improved
oral hygiene, reduced oral-related infection and oral-related emergency department visits, and a decrease in the number of workdays missed due to oral pain and infection,” said
Dr. Angie Settle, DNP, West Virginia Health Right’s CEO and Executive Director. “By filling a void in West Virginia’s healthcare safety net, the Mobile Dental Unit also
provides a measure of comfort, support and social justice for our state’s most vulnerable citizens.”