MOBILE DENTIST, BRIGHTER SMILES

March 09, 2002 12:00 am
Dentist Cynthia Morris, left, with dental hygienist Meg Moore, work their magic on Jordan Meyer, 8, of La GrandeFriday afternoon.   (The Observer/LAURA MACKIE-HANCOCK).
Dentist Cynthia Morris, left, with dental hygienist Meg Moore, work their magic on Jordan Meyer, 8, of La GrandeFriday afternoon. (The Observer/LAURA MACKIE-HANCOCK).

Its been said before: One person can make a difference.

Darla Thompson is one person who is making a difference in childrens dental care, says Nancy Findholt, director of the Health Network for Rural Schools.

Thompson, a hygienist in Dr. Jim McMahans La Grande office, organized a visit from a mobile dental office, owned by Northwest Medical Teams, and she recruited La Grande dentists and hygienists to operate the office. Earlier this week, the dental van spent several hours at each rural elementary school.

Shes really been the leader, Findholt said about Thompson. This past year, she found out about the Northwest Medical Teams, and on her own, shes set this up.

The volunteer dental treatment program ended Friday with

Dr. Cindy Morris treating children at Island City Elementary

School.

Thompson even recruited a National Guard dentist, Dr. Cam Little, who came from Salem to spend Tuesday and Wednesday with children from Cove and Union. Drs. Sean Benson and Pat Nearing of La Grande worked with Elgin and Imbler schools, and Dr. Joel Binder of Baker City visited North Powder.

Dental screenings of children in rural schools began in 1998, the second year of the health network. At times, some La Grande dentists have set special days to provide low-cost or no-cost dental treatment for children whose teeth were in poor condition, but this is the first year the dental van has come to Union County.

Its been a collaborative effort of the health network and the local dentists, Findholt said.

To receive treatment, the children must meet the criteria set by the Northwest Medical Teams, Findholt said. The dentists try to treat children without dental insurance and ones who have the most severe problems.

Alice Perry Linker