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story.lead_photo.caption The Sentinel-Record/Grace Brown BETTER CARE: Dr. Jack Porter, right, and dental clinic volunteer Libby Willett educate visitors on the new equipment purchased for the dental clinic at Cooperative Christian Ministries and Clinic using grant money during an open house Monday.

Cooperative Christian Ministries and Clinic hosted an open house Monday to celebrate its newly updated oral hygiene program thanks to a $10,000 grant from Delta Dental and the Hot Springs Area Community Foundation.

"This is a big leap for us in helping the uninsured and underserved in Hot Springs, and we are so excited," Dr. Jack Porter, chairman of the CCMC board of directors, said.

CCMC, which has been using an outdated X-ray machine that required developing film, had a more modern piece of equipment that it could not use because it was missing a component.

The grant has enabled it to add an updated processor for the newer equipment, a panoramic ScanX Classic Digital Radiography System. Previously, the clinic had no way to view the digital images taken by the newer machine.

"Our diagnostic level has really been down to what it was in the '80s. The equipment we were using and processing film," Porter said.

The chemicals used to develop the images from the older machine were difficult to find due to ceased production. Dental clinic volunteer Libby Willett noted sometimes the chemicals were even expired once they arrived.

"Dentistry is like an iceberg. You've got one third above the ocean and two thirds under the ocean. If you can't see those two thirds, you're really just shooting in the dark. And really, you can be doing as much damage as good," Porter said.

Old X-ray techniques and equipment used at the clinic were of limited use because it was only possible to view specific, individual areas of patients' mouths. The new image processor will allow the volunteer dentists and hygienists to view the entire mouth and detect easy to miss problems early on, such as cysts, tumors and impacted teeth.

Porter said such issues can often be difficult to locate because they do not usually manifest in immediate, acute pain that the patient can identify and make dentists aware of. This is why the new image processor is so useful to the clinic.

"It is a new avenue," he said.

The oral hygiene clinic has been open since 2004. Until recently, it had the singular goal of easing pain and suffering by offering simple extractions. But now, with the updated equipment, preventive measures can begin to be taken.

"We realized that if we could get into the preventive side of things, then we could stop the disease," Porter said.

Every second Tuesday of the month, two dentists and their crews volunteer to work the clinic and perform cleanings, extractions, and all other work possible. Executive Director Lynn Blankenship estimates that 2,500 have been served since the dental clinic opened. All services provided to patients are free of charge.

"Health care is so important to everybody. It's critical for anything a person does. If you don't have the services that can keep you operating, then you're just at a loss for holding your job, everything else. It's of strategic importance to a segment of the population that would otherwise be shut out of health care if it was not for this organization," Porter said of CCMC.

The organization does not just offer oral hygiene services. Medical, vision, Getting Ahead classes, and pharmacy services have been made accessible to the underserved through CCMC as well. To those in need, Porter said CCMC is "the safety net for those in the community that can't seek services elsewhere."

The clinic is located at 133 Arbor St. For more information, visit http://www.ccmchs.org or call 501-318-1153. CCMC is a nonprofit organization supported by donations, grants, volunteers, and community advocates.

Local on 01/09/2019

Print Headline: Grant allows CCMC to offer preventive dental care to uninsured, underserved

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