Dental health impact: Benton County

Dec 19,2012
Four times a year, Corvallis-area dentist Bruce Austin, DMD travels to Alsea to care for some of his favorite patients. He works out of a fully equipped mobile dental office provided by Medical Teams International, parked just outside the Alsea Rural Health Clinic, and he provides care to anyone in the community who needs it but can't afford it at a standard dental office.

"This is a wonderful community with a great health clinic, and I am really pleased to be a part of the effort to improve dental health here," Austin says. "It's one of the most urgent needs in this area."

Austin's visits to Alsea are part of the Benton County Oral Health Coalition initiative, a collaboration among several local agencies focused on reaching underserved populations in the county. The initiative includes Love, INC, of Benton County, Benton County Health Services, Strengthening Rural Families, the League of Women Voters, and the Boys & Girls Club of Corvallis.

During the last year, the Benton County Oral Health Coalition initiative helped 204 local adults access dental care. Samaritan Health Services supported the initiative in 2012 with a Social Accountability grant.

"We want to help keep patients from having to go to the Emergency Department with dental issues," Austin says. "Emergency Departments are designed to treat the symptoms of a serious dental problem, but not the root cause. Our job is to treat the cause of the problem, help the patient achieve better dental health, and ease the strain on our local Emergency Departments."

Increasing access to dental care is a community health priority supported by Samaritan Health Services through its Community Health Promotion Program, which includes Social Accountability grants made to other local health-focused agencies and initiatives.