Bolivar, Mo. -- A new dental clinic in Bolivar is helping to brush off the burden of finding dental care for the low-income and uninsured.
The Miles For Smiles dental clinic opened this week in Bolivar on 800 E. Aldrich Road.
On Thursday morning, the new Miles for Smiles dental clinic was filled with callers trying to book an appointment.
"This morning we have had 50 phone calls before noon," said Jean Morrow, Miles for Smiles Administrative Director.
Miles For Smiles began in 1991 as a mobile operation. Morrow said the unit has been serving uninsured and underinsured children at schools in 11 counties in Southwest Missouri.
"We provide cleanings, the screenings, the x-rays, the extractions, the root canals, the crowns," she said. "We provide everything that they need."
Now the new clinic will expand those services to adults.
"Most of clients that we receive that have not seen a dentist in a while need extensive work," said Morrow.
Morrow said the clinic evolved out of a growing need-- of the 11 counties Miles For Smiles serves, there are nine dentists who accept Medicaid.
"We have much more need than we have access. It's just that's why we, even as a children's unit, continued to receive adult calls because they needed to have access, and they didn't have anyone to provide the services for them," she said. "So we've known for some time that there was a need for adult dental."
The clinic has yet to receive more dentistry equipment, but currently, one doctor and three dental assistants have already started to see patients-- including the insured, uninsured but mostly those with Medicaid or who are underinsured.
Morrow said she hopes the clinic will fill a gap and get to the root of the problem.
"It is so critical for us to be able to meet those needs and to set the pattern for consistent oral dental treatment," she said.
According to the American Dental Association, about 3 million children and 18 million adults are expected to gain some form of dental benefits as a result of the Affordable Care Act.
The clinic is funded by Citizens Memorial Hospital.
Morrow said they're hoping to get additional funding to expand services-- and may soon have to hire more staff to match the growing need in the area.
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