Dental clinicBy Gary T. Kubota
on wheels to fill
void on Maui
WAILUKU -- A 36-foot-long camper may become the cure to tooth decay for some Maui residents.
The Maui Mobile Dental Clinic is scheduled to roll within a few months to people who are unable to afford dental care on the Valley Isle.
"It's mainly for urgent care," said Wendie Schwab, a program coordinator of the Maui Mobile Dental Clinic. "We're seeing patients who have not had access to dental care, the uninsured."
State health officials say there is a large group of people who need dental services on Maui but are unable to afford them.
Similar mobile programs have already been established in Kona and Hilo on the Big Island.
Gen Iinuma, a state public health education official, said on Maui, hundreds of people have no dental coverage and no means to afford the services.
Iinuma said mothers are sometimes the most seriously affected within the group, because they spend the family's money on their children's dental care at the expense of their own.
Iinuma says a mother may eventually lose some teeth because of poor dental care, making the search for a job difficult.
Schwab said the mobile clinic, equipped with two dental chairs and X-ray equipment, was donated by the Hawaii Medical Service Association.
The mobile dental program is sponsored by the St. Francis Healthcare System of Hawaii and the Catholic Church's Office for Social Ministry.
At least a couple of dentists, including Jonathan Lau, have already volunteered to contribute their professional services.
"This is kind of a neat service and I'm happy," said Lau, who also serves on the Maui Mobile Dental Clinic advisory committee.
Lau said the committee is looking for more volunteer dentists.
Iinuma said people in the Maui health-care community have been talking about getting a mobile dental van for years.
"The dental van is like the tooth fairy," Iinuma said. "For us, it's just a wonderful surprise."