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Free dental clinic to open - Back to school screenings this Saturday

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By Nathan L. McBroom

A free dental clinic will open this Saturday with a back-to-school screening for children from low-income families.

The clinic, which is run by Operation Care, will help address dental health, what many local leaders consider one of the most pressing issues in the community.

Judy Roberts, executive director of Operation Care, said the clinic has been in the planning stages for over three years.

She said the years of planning and preparation will pay off when the clinic starts helping the people in the community who daily suffer because of a lack of dental treatment.

Roberts said because of the high price of dental services and hard economic times, some parents in the community have neglected caring for their children's teeth.

"We've got parents who are having to decide between paying their bills and getting their kids' teeth fixed," she said. "With no money, they end up saying to their kid 'here take an aspirin, I've got to try to find out how to pay rent.'"

Currently, there is no clinic in Shelbyville or the surrounding area that offers free dental care, Roberts said.

She said finding affordable dental care is especially a problem within the Hispanic community.

The clinic, which is located at 615 Washington St., will have its grand opening with a back-to-school screening for students from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, July 19.

Along with performing routine cleanings, dentist will also perform fillings, x-rays and extractions. At present, the clinic cannot perform root canals.

While appointments are not necessary, Roberts is asking parents to sign up beforehand. The clinic is free of charge but donations are accepted. The clinic is open to anyone.

The screening is an effort to help parents comply with a regulation by the school system.

This year the Shelby County Public School system is requiring students to receive a dental screening before coming to school.

Roberts said healthy teeth help lead to healthy minds and bodies.

"How can they study when their body is wracking with pain," she said. "There is hardly anything worse than a tooth ache."

Roberts said the clinic would have never opened had it not been for the generous support of individuals, organizations and churches.

Four local dentists have agreed to volunteer at the clinic. And all of the dental equipment has been donated. The majority of the equipment was given by Kosair Children's Hospital in Louisville, and Southeast Christian Church in Louisville donated the clinic's X-ray machine.

Roberts said Southeast has "adopted" Operation Care and has been especially generous to them.

"I know that, whatever I need, I can pick up the phone, give them a call, and I know that they are going to be able to help me," she said.

Along with providing volunteer dentists for the clinic, Southeast members also recently helped refurbish two rooms at the clinic.

Roberts said the dream of having a free dental clinic met several bumps along the way. She credits Jill Baldwin, the clinic's administrator, with ensuring the dream became a reality.

The clinic's schedule has yet to be finalized, but Roberts said it will be open to the public once a week.

For more information or to register for the dental screening, call 633-1965.