Affordable Care Act Brings Mobile Dental Clinic to Central Coast

Hundreds of students in San Luis Obispo County have a new way of accessing dental health care thanks to federal health care reform.

student getting dental cleaning

A Dana Elementary school student gets his teeth cleaned inside a new mobile dental clinic.

Community Health Centers of the Central Coast, Inc. (CHC) purchased a new mobile health van fully equipped with two dental exam chairs, an x-ray machine, space for filing and other equipment necessary for dental care.

The funding for the mobile dental van came from a federal grant of $500,000 as part of the school-based health center funding outlined in the Affordable Care Act.

Section 4101(a) of the Affordable Care Act, which was signed into law in March 2010, sets aside $200 million over four years (fiscal years 2010 through 2013) for construction, renovation, and equipment needs for school-based health centers (SBHCs). As of December 2011, the Health Resources Services Administration has released $109 million in awards nationwide, including $16 million to SBHCs in California.

Congresswoman Lois Capps (CA-23) visited Dana Elementary School in Nipomo to help celebrate the new mobile dental clinic and highlight the effectiveness of school-based health care centers.

Rep. Capps with students outside mobile dental van

Standing outside a new mobile dental clinic, Dana Elementary School students proudly show off their dental check-up records. In the back row (l to r), Joseph Mercardante, Director of Dental Services at CHC; Rep. Lois Capps; and two dental school students who will assist with dental health services. Photo courtesy of Sarah Leavenworth, CHC.

“I just believe with all my heart that this is a good combination. There’s a big gap often times between what the family needs and what they can access,” Capps said.

Joseph Mercardante, Director of Dental Services at CHC, noted that dental issues are the top reason for student absences in San Luis Obispo County. Additionally, lower income students are 12 times more likely to miss school due to oral health issues than their higher income peers.

“This mobile van is going to improve access 100 percent,” Mercardante said. The mobile dental clinic, which is part of CHC’s “Brush! Brush! Brush!” oral health and education program, is expected to serve about 1,600 patients a year.

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