Starting in June, the Area Agency on Aging and Disabilities of Southwest Washington (AAADSW) began partnering with Battle Ground HealthCare to create the Senior Oral Health Program, which provides free dental service to seniors 60 or older without dental insurance.
The program reaches seniors throughout Clark, Klickitat and Skamania counties. Battle Ground HealthCare Executive Director Susan Neal is happy to partner with AAADSW for the much-needed service.
“In dental, this is the area of all of our disciplines that sees the greates number of seniors,” Neal said. “So statistically, we see far more people ages 60 and above in dental than we do in our other services. Dental is just an area that’s extremely difficult to access and to find as a free service.”
With the work the AAADSW does to improve the health of seniors in the community, Neal said. “It’s just a wonderful opportunity to partner with them so they can improve the health of seniors on a greater scale,” she said.
“It is a huge asset to work with the Area (Agency) on Aging and providing that comprehensive access to resources and services that are needed for our seniors in the community,” she said.
“Before they are seen by a dentist for any treatment, (seniors) get a full screening the same as anyone would going to a dentist. (When) they come in, we do health histories and blood pressure, and get a good idea of the individual’s physical health, then they’re seen by a dentist and the dentist reviews their physical and dental history, and then does a full dental exam,” she said.
Neal said the exam includes full panoramic x-rays. Once the patient is screened, the dentist then coordinates a treatment plan with them. The dentists can provide restorations, fillings, extractions and cleanings. She said they have also recently added dentures to their list of services. The clinic currently has 12 volunteer dentists and three dental hygienists, as well as four dental bays.
“All of these volunteers make it possible for us to serve the community and have the robust program that we have,” Neal said.
Since Battle Ground HealthCare opened its new location last year, the clinic had more volunteer dentists than before.
“So (for) the move to this new location, what we were hoping for has certainly come true. We are visible, so we are hoping to be able to have patients see us, and that we would be able to provide more people in the community with services, and so that’s definitely happening across the board,” she said.
Battle Ground HealthCare Dental Coordinator Krista Pietila said the dentists enjoy working in the clinic, which encourages them to come back. She also noted how rampant of a problem it is with seniors not being able to access dental care.
“Not only do (seniors) not have access, but what happens is they give up,” Pietila said. “They have to focus their money toward health or food or rent … I feel like they give up a lot with their dental. They lose hope, and so we give them that hope. It’s fantastic to help them with that.”
Neal said the clinic aims to acquire a CT scanner within the next three to six months, but feels “blessed” to have their panoramic x-ray.
At this time, the clinic still accepts new patients. Battle Ground HealthCare is located at 1910 SW Ninth Ave., Battle Ground. For more information, visit battlegroundhealthcare.org.