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Health Department wins $1.2 million grant to start mobile dental unit

South Florida Sun-Sentinel

PALM BEACH COUNTY - Lena Rahming knows firsthand the damage the lack of dental care can do to a child.

Most of the kids in the Boynton Beach Head Start Center, including some with a mouthful of cavities, require some sort of dental care, she said.

"I see that every day, that's the hardest thing," said Rahming, who manages the center. "There are so many children who need it -- plenty, plenty. That's the only thing we have to wait for when they come and register the children here."

Help may be on the way for Rahming.

The Palm Beach County Health Department has won a $1.2 million grant to fund a mobile dentistry program that will bring preventive dental services to poor children who otherwise might never see a dentist.

The grant, through the Marjorie S. Fisher Fund of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, will be awarded over the next three years, according to a news release from the Health Department.

"They're providing all the initial cost for the constructing of it, getting it ready and on the road, and then over the course of the next two years they'll give us operating money," said Tim O'Connor, spokesman for the Health Department.

The full-size bus is expected to operating by November. It will be staffed by a dentist and a dental hygienist. It features two fully equipped dental suites for cleanings and fillings, an X-ray unit and X-ray developing facility, a sterilization area and a waiting area, O'Connor said.

Officials at the Caridad Center, west of Boynton Beach, said they are seeing more and more people in need of health benefits and the mobile dentist will fill the gap.

Taryn Wheat, the center's director of philanthropy, said the economic crunch has created more hardship for those who already were low-income working families. The recession also has increased the number of people who need help, Wheat said.

"Our services are set up for people that have no insurance, so we're actually seeing the people who have no Medicaid to rely on," she said. "If they had to take care of their medical issues, it would have to be private dollars out of their own pockets 100 percent. So we appreciate the fact that the Health Department is going to provide these services out on the street. I believe it going to help alleviate people that are in extreme pain."


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