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Helping those in need of dental attention

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A Community Dental Health Coordinator does everything from treatments and screenings to community outreach and helping the un-insured get needed coverage. Jacob Kualapai, a CDHC in Albuquerque is shown here doing a screening. (Submitted Photo)

Roswell has a Community Dental Health Coordinator. Her name is Renee Edwards and she has been busy since coming to town.

“I have set up several school-based programs here in Roswell, Edwards said. “At the schools we treat the kids whether they have dental insurance or not.

“The office I work for is an FQHC, (Federally Qualified Health Care). We have reduced fees. Fortunately, here in Chaves County, we have the indigent fund. If people don’t have insurance I help them find coverage for their medical and dental needs.”

The CDHC is a liaison between patients, physicians, dentists, community health centers, and other social service agencies that facilitate access to services. Edwards offers clinical preventive services as well as community outreach. She makes it a point to interact with those at high risk for dental disease. Frequently, those people don’t know how to access dental care.

“I am a CDA (Certified Dental Assistant),” Edwards said, “with the community dental health coordinator program, I’m able to go to go out into the community and go to senior citizens facilities. Once we get our network up I’ll be able to do X-rays when I’m out in the field and also do tele-dentistry. I go to day-care facilities and I teach classes. In my office I can place temporary fillings to fill emergency needs.”

A large part of Edwards’ work is education. Families need to know what dental services are needed regularly, how to set appointments and what questions to ask. She can help with all of that and more. One of the biggest problems she has found in the Roswell area is the number of people who don’t have any kind of dental insurance. She helps with that, too. One of her most important roles is helping patients navigate the health care system.

“I help people get coverage,” she said. “If it’s an emergency I can get them qualified for emergency Medicaid on the spot. I do that a lot in Roswell because most people don’t have coverage.”

Part of Edwards’ job is to encourage regular dental care for unique populations such as pregnant women, teething infants, diabetics and the elderly.

“We are especially eager to showcase our new full line of dental services to the Roswell community,” she said. “We are currently scheduling appointments for pediatric, adult, geriatric and special needs patients. Our equipment is state-of-the-art and we provide a wide range of services to include preventive care, comprehensive treatment and emergency consultations.”

Among the services offered are complete and partial dentures, crowns and bridges, dental cleanings, dental sealants, emergency consultations, extractions, fillings, full examinations, night guards, oral health education, root canal therapy and X-rays.

Edwards is doing all she can to make more people aware of their services.

“We are located on the ENMU-R campus at the health sciences building,” she said. “I see us getting the word out there because most people don’t know about us. I work with Big Brothers Big Sisters, I work with the Down Syndrome foundation, I work with some people at the Department of Health. I work with the Roswell Police Department, the Roswell Fire Department, EMT’s, and we all have meetings together to discuss what’s going on in the community.”

Some of the work CDHC’s have done to improve the communities they work in include one in New Mexico who worked with diabetes patients in a tribal community health center and successfully eliminated missed appointments among her patients. Another in Arizona, working in a single-dentist practice, doubled the clinic’s patient base and increased access to care in a remote, rural location. One other impressive job was done by a CDHC in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Working in 30 schools they provided 1,200 screenings, 1,300 cleanings, and more than 2,000 sealants for children.

The work of a CDHC is challenging, but rewarding.

“I really love what I do,” Edwards said. “I work for La Casa Family Health. We believe quality care should be made available to everyone. We will collaborate with you to develop a treatment plan which best suits your oral health needs. Our caring and diligent team works together to ensure the best experience for each of our patients.”

The American Dental Association stands behind the CDHC program in the belief that community-based education and patient support make great improvements in oral health.

Edwards can be reached at 575-624-7207 for questions and appointments.

Features reporter Curtis M. Michaels can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at reporter04@rdrnews.com.