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Mobile dental clinic in Cleveland helping patients who can't make traditional appointments

Posted at 4:53 PM, Aug 28, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-28 18:26:35-04

CLEVELAND — The city that rocks, getting a little extra roll as a mobile dental clinic hits the road.

The "Lifelong Smiles" bus added a new stop on its tour to help seniors in Cleveland stay on top of their oral health.

In the Hough neighborhood, there are several residents who for many reasons struggle to maintain regular dental care.

A new partnership with a low-income housing facility and Case Western Reserve University is breaking down those barriers.

"Barriers to transportation, barriers to care or maybe don't have insurance so we take our van out to them, they can't come to us," said Dr. Suparna Mahalaha, School of Dental Medicine, CWRU.

Doctors from the School of Dental Medicine at the university are crisscrossing the community in a 38-foot-long RV that's equipped with two full-service dental stations.

It’s the city's only geriatric dental clinic on four wheels.

With the nation's elderly population living longer, surpassing 72-million by 2030 according to federal estimates, demand for this type of service in our community is soaring.

“We're always booked actually, and the need is great. There's more work to do than we have the time to do," said Mahalaha.
Michelle Simmons flew up from Texas to help her mom with her check-up.

"It's very important for someone that is not really mobile, and it's just a real convenience for seniors," said Simmons.

Adult day care centers, assisted living facilities and nursing homes in the Hough neighborhood now have able to access dentists.

"We'll do some of the work on the van and the more complex procedures that we can't do on the van we send them back to the Case Western Dental School for them to pick up some of the complicated procedures," said Dr. Mahalaha.

Dr. Lisa Blackmon has been doing this type of work for 23 years.

“It's an invaluable, precious gift that we give seniors," said Blackmon.

Blackmon said she gets more out of this than her patients.

"The patients are so appreciative. We get tons of hugs because they realize the value, the value in this van coming to them," said Blackmon.