RCCHC to offer dental integrated care in Aulander

Published 5:45 pm Tuesday, June 21, 2022

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By Leslie Wolcott

RCCHC Public Relations

AULANDER – Roanoke Chowan Community Health Center (RCCHC) announces plans to open a new site in Aulander.

Dental Integrated Care of Aulander will feature eight dental operatories as well as other offices. At full operational capacity, the site will be staffed with two dentists, two hygienists, and other care providers. All services that RCCHC offers at other sites will be accessible at the Aulander site as well.

“At RCCHC, we have been working for the last 10 years to broaden options for oral health and dental care all over eastern NC,” said Kim Schwartz, CEO of Roanoke Chowan Community Health Center. “Obstacles were many, from provider shortages to the costs of opening a new practice. But we know that changing attitudes toward dental care as whole body health, as well as our planned engagement with schools will buoy our new site’s success as will our trusted partnership with many people and institutions around us.”

Funding for the construction of the new site was awarded through federal Capital Assistance for Disaster Response and Recovery Efforts. CADRE funding “support the continuity of access to high quality primary care services for vulnerable populations in areas impacted by natural disasters that occurred in 2018 or 2019.”

Within the RCCHC service region, Bertie County was the only area that qualified due to prolonged and extensive flooding from major hurricanes including Matthew, Florence, and Michael.

This facility, which will be located on South Pine Street, has been in the design stage during the global pandemic and thus benefits from the knowledge gained regarding airflow and infection control. The facility is designed with outside venting for every operatory and exam room, which assists in aerosolized particle control.

RCCHC takes care of the whole patient and their whole health—which includes dental health, a critical component to whole person care. Good dental care helps fight off viruses and infections which can include viruses like COVID-19.

When the Aulander site is open, RCCHC will extend its sliding fee scale program, which allows patients to pay in relation to how much they earn, and thus makes care possible where it wasn’t possible before.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for people who have not been able to receive dental care because they don’t have dental insurance,” said Deborah Morrison, board chair of RCCHC.

RCCHC’s long time partnership with ECU School of Dental Medicine Service learning site has helped them understand more deeply the need for more access to routine dental care in local communities. Oral health is such a key to overall good health and connecting what RCCHC has been doing for the last 17 years as primary care and oral health care more strongly will help improve the overall health and well-being of the people in the communities it serves.

“ECU has enjoyed a strong relationship with RCCHC since our school opened and we look forward to this continuing for many more years. The new clinic in Aulander will provide opportunities for us to find new and innovative ways to serve the dental needs of the community,” said T. Robert Tempel, Jr., DDS, Associate Dean for Extramural Clinical Practices at the East Carolina School of Dental Medicine.

Community leaders join in the chorus of support for the project.

“As Mayor for the town of Aulander I have guided our council in the direction of recreational activities for all age groups in our community,” stated Larry Drew. “However, the physical activities only go so far when striving to meet the needs of our citizens. I and the entire council robustly support the Dental Integrated Care of Aulander clinic. We see this as a significant contributor to the overall health initiatives of our community.

Bertie County Commissioners, too, have been looking for solutions to the region’s oral health needs.

“I have been serving on a committee researching ways to expand dental services in Bertie County. I see a great need for more dental services so I wholeheartedly support this project,” said Tammy Lee, Bertie County Commissioner.

The North Carolina Center for Health Statistics February 2020 County Trends Reports for Key Health Indicators shows Bertie County has a severe shortage of dentists with only 0.5 dentists/10,000 population compared to the state rate of 5.0 dentists/10,000 population. There is only one practicing dentist operating in Bertie County, Dr. Johnathan Hairr, whose practice also offers dental hygiene services.

The NC Oral Health Section of the State Department of Public Health reports that Region 9, which includes Bertie County, has the highest percentage of kindergarteners with untreated tooth decay in the state and only 3.7% of children have at least one sealant on a permanent molar tooth. This is not surprising given the short supply of dentists and the fact that only 17% of the population is served by public water systems that are fluoridated in Bertie County, compared to 88% of the statewide population that has fluoridated water supplies. In fact, only 7.7% of qualified schools participated in the Fluoride Mouth Rinse program through the state dental program in our region compared to 41.1% of schools in the state as a whole.

For more information about the services offered by Roanoke Chowan Community Health Center, visit www.rcchc.org.