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Published: Thursday, 7/9/2009

Budgetary cavity puts dental unit on hiatus

A mobile dental office that reaches 350 to 500 people in northwest Ohio each week is out of commission for the summer, but officials say they hope to be back on the road by fall.

"We're very hopeful that by September when school gets back in session and we have a few more dentists on board and we have the state budget resolved that we'll be up and running again," said Melinda Cree, president of the Dental Center of Northwest Ohio, a nonprofit agency that provides reduced-cost dental care to eligible low-income people.

Ms. Cree said the center is trying to arrange for patients who are regularly treated on the mobile dental center, dubbed the Smile Express, to be seen at the center's clinics in Toledo and Findlay.

The Smile Express had been spending one day a week at the Wood County Health Department in Bowling Green, three days a month at the Erie County Health Department in Sandusky, two days a month at a medical clinic in Van Wert, and one day a month at the Putnam County Educational Service Center in Ottawa. It also visits Headstart sites for children of migrant workers and goes to a variety of schools during the school year.

Ms. Cree said the uncertain financial situation with the state coupled with the fact that the center lost three of the dentists who work on the Smile Express prompted the center to temporarily suspend the mobile service. She said the center is working to line up more dentists, both volunteers and paid, for the service.

The Smile Express is to make one stop at the Wood County Health Department Friday when it will be staffed by a medical resident from University of Toledo Medical Center and a licensed dentist.

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