‘Smile Express’ back in county


The Smile Express mobile dental unit is returning temporarily to the Wood County Health Department.
During Thursday’s Wood County Board of Health meeting, Director of Nursing Ann Smith reported Melinda
Cree, president of the Dental Center of Northwest Ohio, had sent a letter announcing it was
discontinuing mobile service to the area because of a lack of funding. The letter was dated June 17.
But Friday morning the Smile Express arrived and set up shop as usual outside the health department.
Cree explained in a phone interview on Tuesday the dental center was able to get a resident from the
University of Toledo Medical Center, along with an adjunct professor, to serve in the Smile Express on
July 10. The medical center has a general practice residency program for dentists.
"We looked at places to go, which area had the greatest need," Cree said of Friday’s service
opening for the mobile unit. "The staff felt that because of going to Wood County on a weekly basis
for three years, we’d be able to schedule patients late in the game." She added, "We didn’t
have a dentist to pay. He volunteered."
The Smile Express does not bill the health department but is paid through Medicaid. Cree’s letter had
indicated that while the mobile dental unit’s expenses had increased over the past 10 years,
"Medicaid reimbursement rates for treatment have remained constant since 2000."
But Cree is hopeful that has changed with the passage of the state’s new budget. "I am under the
impression they have sort of reached an agreement with the budget in Columbus. The things I’ve been
hearing from Columbus have been positive."
In addition, she has a local dentist who has agreed to work in the Smile Express through August.
"It looks like we will be able to reinstate only Wood County," she said. Since the Smile
Express has been at the Wood County Health Department traditionally on Thursdays, she expects it to be
there on the 16th.
It is expected to serve Wood County through August. "That’s how long the dentist we have identified
who lives in Wood County will be here. Right now we’re looking at being able to come Thursdays through
the remainder of July and August. We’re taking it on a day-by-day, week-by-week basis."
The two chief obstacles suspending Smile Express service to Wood County, the state budget and the lack of
a dentist, have been somewhat resolved. "Since a local dentist agreed to work for us … we’ll
start coming back."
Cree expressed pleasure at maintaining service to Wood County. She said it was the first outlying county
the dental center was able to contract with, and "it’s been extremely successful. The health
department is wonderful to work with."
In addition, Cree said there is a definite need, so when the dental center had the opportunity to
maintain the program, personnel felt it was important to return to Wood County.
"I’m happy to be there."
Ann Smith surmised two reasons why Wood County was chosen for continued service may have been its low
"no-show" rate among patients who make appointments for the Smile Express, and the county’s
need. "We have a high need," she said.
Cree indicated the mobile unit will continue after August based on two "ifs:" if the state
budget passes, and if the dental center is successful locating other dentists willing to work in it.

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