BERLIN — Town, county and state representatives were all on hand last Tuesday for the ribbon cutting of the new Worcester County Dental Center (WCDC) in Berlin.
The center, which is a provider for the Maryland Healthy Smiles Dental Program and Maryland’s Medicaid Dental Benefit Plan, has been supported by the Maryland Office of Oral Health. According to county officials, the goal of the center is to offer dental services for patients 20 years old and younger who otherwise might not be able to afford treatment.
“It’s hard to believe that a child would ever lose their life over a tooth,” said Delegate Norm Conway (D-38B).
However, he explained that such a thing has happened before in Maryland. Hopefully, he said, the new WCDC would prevent anything that tragic from taking place in Worcester.
“In rural areas, having a dentist available is not always possible,” said Conway, who pointed out that travel to the center would be available from anywhere in Worcester for those who couldn’t make the trip themselves.
The center will target young patients who are uninsured, low-income or are members of the Maryland Healthy Smiles Program.
While the official ribbon cutting was Tuesday, WCDC representatives reported that 218 patients have already been treated at the site, 41 of which came in for emergency care.
The statistics show a strong need for the center. Fifty-two percent of children 20 years old and younger went without oral health care in 2010, according to the Eastern Shore Area Health Education Center. The Annie E. Cassie Foundation noted that, in 2007, 11.5 percent of children in Worcester were uninsured. Additionally, a 2005 Health Professional Shortage Area Dental Survey revealed that less than 5 percent of dentists in Worcester accept medical assistance insurance.
All of the speakers at the ceremony last week agreed that the WCDC was filling a hole in the community.
“It’s obviously very much needed,” said Mayor Gee Williams, who admitted he wasn’t aware of the scope of the problem before talks for adding a dental center began. “Its potential is dramatic.”
County Commission President Bud Church remarked that making the center a reality had taken work on several layers of government.
“They knew there was a need and they took care of the problem,” he said of all the agencies involved.
Church thanked Conway for representing the state and Williams for hosting the center in Berlin. Church also thanked his fellow commissioners for the work they put into the project, especially Commissioner Louise Gulyas.
“This is a dream come true for Louise and all the county commissioners,” said Church.
Williams agreed with Church that it had taken cooperation across the board to see the WCDC open its doors.
“The town of Berlin is very proud to partner with the County Commissioners … This is the latest example of what is possible when we all work together,” Williams said.