WVU dental team visits Marlinton Elementary
Thanks to the generosity of the Snowshoe Foundation, many local school kids now are equipped with electric toothbrushes to make brushing fun and prevent cavities. The foundation donated $1,900 to bring a four-person dental team from the West Virginia University School of Dentistry to Marlinton Elementary School on April 21. Laura Young with the Pocahontas County Family Resource Network (FRN) coordinated the visit.
Upon their arrival in Marlinton, the dental team enjoyed lunch at McClintic Library, hosted by the Marlinton Woman's Club.
The team consisted of WVU dental hygienist instructor Gina Sharps, dental student Ashley Hudimac and dental hygienist students Amber Naylor and Sarah Nelson. The dental team showed a film and gave classes on dental care and nutrition to the students in the school auditorium. The instruction and demonstrations were geared toward the young audience and the kids appeared to have a lot of fun.
Through practical, fun demonstrations, the team taught the students how to properly brush and floss and what to expect when they visited a dentist's office. The youngsters were overjoyed when Sharps told them they would receive a backpack full of dental care supplies, including an electric toothbrush.
Young said many children in Pocahontas County face hardship in receiving dental care.
"There's only one dentist in Pocahontas County," she said. "Many of the kids are on West Virginia CHIPS or Medicaid and can't get services in-county. So, it's a 50-mile one-way trip to the nearest dentist outside the county, which is a financial hardship for their family."
Sharps said dental disease affects more than just children's teeth.
"The big thing about it - if the kid suffers from dental disease, it affects their ability to concentrate in school and affects their ability to learn," she said. "It's completely preventable - no kid should suffer from dental disease. The big thing is getting them into the system. They should be seen in a dental clinic and that's continual care, every six months."
The instructor said dental health in West Virginia is extremely poor.
"One of the startling statistics that seems to be the one that plagues us the most is - West Virginia is number one in endentulism in adults, which means we have the most adults without any teeth. Again, just as tooth decay in children is preventable, losing your teeth is preventable and should not happen."
Young said another unnecessary problem added to dental problems in the local population.
"Another thing in Pocahontas County that makes that compounded is the fact that we still have so many tobacco users," she said. "Even among the younger people, it is still huge and it causes them to lose their teeth."
Hudimac, who will receive her degree and become a dentist this spring, said she thought about coming to Pocahontas County to establish a dental practice.
"I actually thought about coming here, but I'm interested in a federally-qualified health clinic and there isn't one in this area. There's a lot of dental students interested in the federally-qualified health clinics, because not only do you get to work with a good group of patients, but you also qualify for loan repayment. So, it's a really good opportunity for a lot of dentists right out of school."
A new dentist can work at at a federally-qualified clinic for five years and have student loans, often hundreds of thousands of dollars, completely paid off, according to Hudimac.
Dr. Sarita Bennett, of Marlinton, said the Tri-State Health Clinic in Durbin is a federally-qualified health clinic, but currently contains no dental clinic. The doctor suggested that community leaders conduct a "dental summit" to have a dental clinic established at the Durbin health clinic and work toward recruiting even more dentists to the county.
Snowshoe Foundation representative Randy Sharp presented a check for $1,900 to the dental team at the school. Sharp praised the FRN and said the dental visit was exactly the type of activity that the foundation seeks to support.
"This is exactly what we look for to support," he said. "Reach as many children in our community, as possible, and our surrounding counties also. We just appreciate you being here for us."
The dental team visited the Hillsboro and Green Bank schools last year.