Byline: Tommy Pittenger The Register-Guard
Oregon has a dental problem. But Dr. Patrick Luedtke said he thinks that problem is significantly worse in Lane County.
Luedtke is the public health officer for Community Health Centers of Lane County, which worked with the county's Women Infants and Children - WIC - program to set up a free dental clinic in Cottage Grove, which opened Thursday, and one in Oakridge, which will open July 19.
WIC is designed to promote lifetime nutrition and healthy behaviors for what is considered an at-risk population of lower-income women and children.
"Nutrition and oral health go hand-in-hand," WIC Program Supervisor Connie Sullivan said. "Young children with cavities may experience speech difficulty and miss school days due to pain and infection; these clinics will help to reduce that problem."
More than a dozen children received dental exams and cleanings on opening day at the Cottage Grove clinic, which is nestled in the Department of Human Services Family Center.
Brittney Marquez, who brought her son Carlos into the new clinic for a checkup, has been enrolled in WIC for more than a year. If not for the new WIC clinic, Marquez said, she would not have been able to take her son in for dental care for another year.
"It's just a nice assurance that me and his father are doing everything right so far," Marquez said.
In addition to free dental exams, fluoride varnish applications and dental cleanings, the clinics also provide oral health information, toothbrushes, toothpaste and floss to women and children covered by WIC with the goal of preventing future dental problems.
The county estimates the two new clinics will serve as many as 457 patients a year.
Luedtke said that state and national surveys have shown that the state in general and Lane County in particular have a dental problem, with access being a major issue.
"Not everyone has access to dentists, and there are no after-hours access for dental emergencies," Leudtke said. Emergency room physicians can provide temporary treatment such as pain killers, but generally can't properly treat dental problems, he said. …