Four-year-old Ricky Hammon got a clean bill of health from his dentist Friday - and his mother got no bill.
Hammon is one of dozens of Spokane youths to get free dental care from the SmileMobile, a rolling dental clinic funded with a $1 million grant from two Washington dental groups.
The SmileMobile, staffed by volunteer Spokane dentists and their staffs, was created to give low-income families access to free dental care in their neighborhoods, according to James Sledge, Eastern Washington coordinator of the project.
In addition to drilling, filling and cleaning teeth, SmileMobile volunteers instruct kids and parents in dental hygiene.
“Our whole idea is to work ourselves out of a job,” said Sledge, a Spokane dentist. “Dental disease is very preventable, so it’s important to get to the lower socio-economic groups.”
The 30-foot RV, driven by dentist Ed Lamb and his wife, Tami, services 80 to 90 youths per week.
The van will stay in the Spokane area for two more weeks before touring the rest of the state over the next two years.
After that, the Washington Dental Service and Washington State Dental Association could chose to further fund the van.
Friday, the SmileMobile was staffed by Katherine Hakes, a graduate of the University of Washington Dental School.
Taking time away from her three children - ages 1, 3 and 5 - on her day off is not a problem.
“When you know you’re helping people out, it’s worth it,” said Hakes. “I look at the long-term education goal.”
Diane Hammon, mother of Ricky, said she hopes her kids can avoid the dental problems that cost her all her teeth, but a lack of money and insurance have made trips to the dentist few and far between.
As she was talking and watching Ricky, her six-year-old son Kenny, was getting his gums worked on. It was his first check-up in more than two years.
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MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: MILES OF SMILES The SmileMobile will be at the Spokane County Health Building, 1101 W. College, Sept. 5-8. To determine whether your child qualifies for free care from SmileMobile dentists or to schedule an appointment, call Michele Vanderlinde of the Spokane County Health District at 324-1550.