BLOOMFIELD, NJ — An oral health clinic for children and at-risk pregnant women will open in Bloomfield on Monday, Aug. 29.
The clinic is the KinderSmile Oral Health Center. It will be located at 10 Broad Street, on the ground floor of the Leo Building, at the corner of Bloomfield Avenue. The center will provide dental services to qualifying residents from Bloomfield, Glen Ridge, Montclair, East Orange, Irvington, Orange, Nutley, Caldwell and Newark. Entrances to the facility are on Broad Street and Bloomfield Avenue.
At the site last week, painters were applying finishing touches to the pastel-colored interior with furniture arrivals anticipated. But eleven dental chairs, still wrapped in plastic, were already in place. Four chairs were in an oral hygiene bay and seven were in three rooms where dental work would be performed.
The clinic is the fruition of a dream for its creator, Nicole McGrath, a dentist and CEO of the KinderSmile Foundation. McGrath even designed the layout of the clinic and chose the color scheme of the rooms and dental chairs.
The center will be staffed full-time by a clinical health director; two dentists; and two dental assistants. Two hygienists will work part-time while there will be a full- and a part-time receptionist. McGrath said the oral health center is a non-profit with funding coming from Partners for Health Foundation; the Health Care Foundation of NJ; the Horizon Foundation; Investors Foundation; and private donors. Dentists will provide their services pro bono; manufacturers are donating supplies. The annual cost for running the clinic, McGrath said, is $250,000.
“We have created a program called “Give Back a Smile,” she said. “It’s to be launched in September. We’ll allow dentists, dental assistants and hygienists to provide services for the uninsured.”
One of the freshly-painted rooms is the oral education room. It will be a learning center for kids visiting the dentist’s chair.
“Each child will spend 15 minutes on iPads learning about oral hygiene here,” she said. “It will be age-appropriate, interactive oral education program prior to seeing the dentist.”
The program is intended to prepare the child with information of clinical procedures to allay fears.
“It will also provide oral education to prevent dental diseases,” McGrath added.
And the education center will give children an opportunity to join a club such as the “No Cavity Club,” the “No Missed Appointments Club,” and the “Beautiful Smiles Club.” Once every three months, a raffle will be held for gifts to club winners. The point of all this, McGrath said, is for the clinic to maintain a connection with the child while encouraging good dental habits at home.
Teaching children good dental habits is a goal of the health center and there is a row of sinks set lower to the floor for children to learn correct brushing techniques. There will also be a perinatal room to show women oral hygiene. “Everything here is to reinforce good habits,” McGrath said.
A trip to the dentist may take a little bravery for even the most stout-hearted child and the clinic has a rewards center with stickers, stuffed animals, toys and anti-cavity gum for when the ordeal is over.
Children admitted to the clinic will be from newborns to 17-year-olds, with or without insurance; perinatal women with Medicaid; pregnant women with Medicaid; and 75 at-risk women to be selected by the Isaiah Home, the Renaissance House; the East Orange WIC Program; the Essex County Pregnancy and Parenting Program, the East Orange Development Center, and the Bloomfield Health Department, which also covers Glen Ridge.
“The access to oral care for children is a huge problem in New Jersey,” McGrath said. “There are not a lot of dentists accepting Medicare and managed care. With that said, that is why KinderSmile is opening its doors.”
The center is booked for its first two weeks with approximately 27 patients scheduled the first day and another 23 on the second day. KinderSmile will track its children/clients to determine how many are uninsured and what oral hygiene education they are receiving.
McGrath said the Affordable Care Act does not include dentistry and even in upscale communities a child may not have dental insurance because of the cost. And other local facilities are feeling the effects of children with no coverage.
Mountainside Hospital, which provides dental service to uninsured children and at-risk mothers, is filled-up until the end of October, according to McGrath.
“They’re sending clients over here,” she said. “Rutgers School of Dental Medicine is completely booked, too. We’re not the typical dental health center. We’re on the cusp with a public health dental facility.”
One thing about the freshly-painted, dental clinic that McGrath wants people to know is that it will remain well-kept and spotless.
“You’d think it was for the rich and poor,” she said.
The supervisor of Human Health Service at the Bloomfield Health Department, Paula Piekes, said that people frequently contact her office requesting dental service. She provides these callers with information about KinderSmile. Piekes said having KinderSmile in the township is a great benefit and a much-needed service.
“Any of the social services I have in Bloomfield are available to Glen Ridge,” she said.
UPDATE: This story has been updated to reflect the correct opening date of Aug. 29. Originally the story read Aug. 26.