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People's Health Clinic Provides Dental Exams To Summit, Wasatch County Kids Without Insurance

People's Health Clinic

The People’s Health Clinic of Park City hosted its annual dental clinic for children Saturday, teaching dozens of kids—and their parents—about the importance of oral health. 

Sitting in a dentist’s chair probably isn’t how kids usually envision their Saturdays.

Thirty-two Summit and Wasatch County children, ranging from 18 months to 15-years-old, had appointments for Children’s Dental Health Day, with 30 more on the waitlist. Most of the clinic’s clients live in Park City and work in the service industry, but the only prerequisite for receiving care there is living in Summit or Wasatch Counties and being uninsured.

Volunteers from Vail Epic Promise checked in patients, and when their checkup was finished, kids walked out with an Easter basket in hand—featuring both candy and a toothbrush—provided by the Christian Center of Park City. People’s Health Clinic Executive Director Beth Armstrong says dental health is key to overall health, and for some kids, it’s the first time they’ve ever been to the dentist.

"A lot of our patients wait for this day yearly to get their kids in to be seen, because as you know, dental visits are very expensive," Armstrong said. "Sometimes it comes down to being able to go to the dentist or putting food on the table, and they're going to pick the food on the table every time."

Credit KPCW Radio

The health care providers focused mostly on prevention, though if there were serious issues, they could also make referrals for treatment. Students from the University of Utah’s School of Dentistry lent their services, guiding kids through brushing and flossing their own teeth—and for the little ones, practicing toothbrushing on stuffed animals. Marielle Pariseau, a volunteer oral health educator at the People’s Health Clinic, says the consequences of not having access to dental health are serious, so providing patients with education and knowledge empowers them.

“That knowledge is more than 2000 years old," Pariseau said. "It's based on Hippocrates saying the best medicine is to teach people how to not need it, and this is what we try to do here. We teach people to not need fillings, or extractions, or things like that, and I think this is important for everyone—not just the people here at the clinic.”

One of the patients, 12-year-old Armando, guesses he hasn’t been to the dentist in six years. His dad was sitting with him while Armando got his teeth cleaned, and he says with three kids and no insurance, it’s hard to prioritize dental health when there are other pressing financial needs. Armando says the dental students talked about flossing and brushing, then they put cavity protection and fluoride on his teeth. Overall, he says, it was an OK experience—but it did make him think more about his dental health.

Credit KPCW Radio

“I want to go to the dentist more, or like, I could take care of my teeth better,” Armando said.

Given the need illustrated by the waitlist, Armstrong says the clinic hopes to plan another children’s dental day for the fall; and soon, one for adults, too.

Emily Means hadn’t intended to be a journalist, but after two years of studying chemistry at the University of Utah, she found her fit in the school’s communication program. Diving headfirst into student media opportunities, Means worked as a host, producer and programming director for K-UTE Radio as well as a news writer and copy editor at The Daily Utah Chronicle.