May 24 • 07:15 PM

Mobile dentists keep Almont kids smiling

Farmington Hills-based professionals donate time and services as part of SMILE program

Dr. Julie Rosefield, DDS; and Bonnie Smericka, RDS; attend to Almont Middle School student Deborah Bicja on Tuesday in conjunction with the school district's first time 'mobile dentistry program' for students. photo by Tom Wearing.

October 17, 2018
ALMONT — Making sure your kids receive timely preventative dental care can be like pulling teeth for some parents.

From scheduling time off work, to taking the kids out of school, to incurring the costs for such care can be downright challenging.

For parents of students at Almont Orchard Primary and Almont Middle School, life just got a little easier.

On Tuesday, Oct. 16, 32 elementary and seven middle school students were provided basic dental services from a mobile team of professional dentists and hygienists.

Based in Farmington Hills, the mobile dental unit was comprised of Dr. Julie Rosenfield, DDS; Bonnie Smerika, RDS; and dental hygienist Anu Koripella, who welcomed and took X-rays of each participating student.

The three professionals have been happily donating their time and services to help Detroit-area students for more than 15 years as participants in the SMILE program.

Koripella said the entire team is committed to the program and pleased to be able to bring their talents and skills to children throughout the region.

"We love what we do and we are totally dedicated to this program," she said. "It's very important that all children be provided preventative oral health care. This program helps make that happen."

Koripella said that while working parents face the challenge of finding time to get their kids to the dentist, inner city parents often have to deal with both economic and systemic challenges related to dental care.

"In the cities, we find a lot of the kids who already have a lot of tooth decay and very immediate needs," said Koripella. "In some cases, this program is the only dental care these kids have ever received."

She alluded to the high cost of dental care and poor (sugar concentrated) diets as major factors in tooth erosion and decay in children.

Because affordability is crucial to many parents, Koripella said SMILE participants may avail themselves to the program through Medicaid, CHIP, private insurances, and through grant funding if they are unable to pay.

"No child will be turned away," she said. "We are about eliminating the barriers to dental care and we do that by coming right to the schools."

Preventative care was the focus of the team on Tuesday, which could include X-rays, a dental exam, cleaning, fluoride treatments and sealants if needed.

In more serious cases, the program can offer restorative care for children, including fillings, simple extractions, crowns and more extensive procedures.

Coordinating Almont Schools' first-ever mobile dentist program was middle school teacher Kelly Petrovich who had spearheaded such programs at her former schools in Maryland.

Petrovich was pleased with the level of participation for the district's inaugural program and she hopes it can be continued to include more students in the future.

"Our goal for the program is to try to meet the needs of the whole child," said Petrovich. "And it is an opportunity for students to not miss school because of a visit to the dentist.

"As it stands, we are hoping to continue this program in the spring."

Toothy facts

•Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease of childhood and is five more times as common in children as asthma.

•Sealants and fluoride are the two best ways to eliminate tooth decay.

•Two out of five at-risk children do not see a dentist in a year.

•More than 51 million school hours are lost each year due to oral health problems among children.

Tom Wearing started at the Tri-City Times in 1989, covering the Village of Capac as a beat reporter. He later served stints as assistant editor and editor. Today, he covers Imlay City and Almont as a staff writer. He enjoys music and plays drums and sings with various musical groups in the Detroit Metropolitan area.
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