Tucked away behind the Yadkin Valley Hospital, the Yadkin County Dental Clinic quietly serves the low-income residents in the area with most of their dental care needs.
A branch of the Yadkin County Health Department serves residents with Medicaid and North Carolina Health Choice. The clinic will also see residents with no aid or insurance and charge on a sliding fee scale, which means that their total amount charged will be based on the total income that comes into the home and the number of people living in the home. Those residents would have to pay 60 to 100 percent of their bill.
“We are really busy. We pretty much have a full schedule Monday through Wednesday,” said Shannon Harris, clinic receptionist. “I have only been here for two years and it has increased progressively over the two years that I’ve been here and it just keeps progressing.”
The clinic is equipped to provide all of the basic services you will find in your typical family dentist as well as emergencies such as broken and abscessed teeth. Harris said that most of the clinic’s patients are school-age children.
“We see a lot of people come in with an infected tooth whether it be because they have a cavity or they have an abscess,” Dental Hygienist Kristy Lowe said. “We see a lot of periodontal issues where they need deep cleaning.”
Lowe said that a lot of the problems they see are due to the fact that their clientele are mostly low-income residents who don’t have the extra money to maintain their dental health.
“They don’t have the money there, so they want to pull the tooth because it’s a lot cheaper than taking the time to actually fix it,” Lowe said.
Although the clinic is a part of the health department it is not funded through the state. The clinic relies entirely on payment from Medicaid and from the patients that must pay out of pocket. Steps have been made to try to get grants for the clinic but officials must go through all of the proper channels to get them approved, which can be a slow process.
“With the help of the grant we’ll be in the day care centers and the head starts talking with kids 0 to 5 about brushing and doing some screenings and evaluating how well they are brushing,” Lowe said. “Basically showing them what they’re missing and what they need to be working on.”
The clinic staff already works with the elementary schools by providing screenings and sending notes home with children who have or are at risk for dental problems.
“When we’re doing the screenings we’re doing patient education while they’re there,” Dental Assistant Ashley Waddell said. “If they have any type of dental concern then we send a paper home for the parent to let them know that there was a screening today and that some areas we saw are questionable and they need to see a dentist now and we provide them with our information which could lead them here.”
The clinic is able to support the “Give a Kid a Smile” program in February, which allows two children to receive all of the dental work they need at no charge. The children are chosen from existing clients at the clinic who’s work can be postponed until February so that it can be provided for free or through recommendations made through the school nurses.
Members of the clinic staff feel the biggest problem for the clinic right now is that residents don’t know it exists or they don’t know where it’s located.
“We’ve been here three years and people still don’t know where we are located,” Lowe said. “They are saying that a lot of that is due to not having a sign out at the end of the road at the emergency room entrance and needing a bigger sign in the yard.”
The staff also wants residents to remember that the clinic is not free even though it is a part of the health department.
“It’s not a free clinic,” Harris said. “We will do what we can do to get you the treatment you need. We will give people information to try to help them get help somewhere they can afford it. Just because we can’t do something for you doesn’t mean we can’t do something for you. We can give you at least information as tools even if you can’t pay us.”
Workers at the clinic also want people to know that the care provided by the clinic is quality even if the price is discounted and that residents shouldn’t feel ashamed to receive help if it’s available to them.
“A lot of people have their thoughts about public health but we’re a very close-knit family here and it’s just us four and we’re all here together and we have a relationship with our patients,” Waddell said.
“Just because it’s low income doesn’t mean it is low standards,” Harris said.
The Yadkin County Dental Clinic is located at 622 W. Main St. in Yadkinville. The hours of operation are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Wednesday and every other Thursday. You can reach the clinic by calling 849-7777.
Reach Lindsay Craven at 679-2341 or at email@example.com.