July 12, 2024


Health know-how

Supply and demand: Dental clinic seeks volunteers to meet local need | News


The Piedmont Regional Dental Clinic (PRDC) is seeking volunteers to help meet surging demand.

The non-profit dental clinic, located on James Madison Highway just outside the Town of Orange, was founded in 2010 by Greene County resident Andre Hintermann with a mission to increase access to affordable oral health care for all Virginians. Last year, its operation and facility were turned over to the Culpeper Wellness Foundation (CWF).

The clinic accepts all patients but serves mostly residents from Orange, Madison, Greene and Culpeper counties and provides reduced fees for low-income patients.

“We are a full-service dental clinic, but we focus on basic dentistry,” says CWF President and PRDC acting Director Shari Landry. “Last year, we saw about 3,000 patients and about 6,000 visits.”

Landry says the PRDC is on track to meet those numbers again this year but says the clinic is backed-up with appointments due to staffing issues. She hopes for volunteers in the near future to help meet patient demand.

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“We need volunteers to help answer the phones and to help us with things like filing and returning calls to patients,” says Landry. “Just overall administrative help.”

She adds that the clinic needs some Spanish-speaking volunteers to help communicate with Spanish-speaking cliental.

Meanwhile, PRDC Treasurer Richard Powers adds that volunteer dentists or dental hygienists also would help the clinic take in more patients.

The clinic accepts all dental insurance, including Medicaid for children and adults.

“In Virginia, last July, 800,000 Medicaid covered adults were given, for the first time ever, a full dental benefit and that is awesome,” says Landry. “But Medicaid pays less than half of the standard charges, so most dentists do not accept Medicaid.”

Landry says the vast majority of patients at the PRDC are Medicaid members, and many of them could not find any other dentist office that would accept Medicaid dental insurance.

To meet the funding threshold required to offer reduced fees for low-income individuals, the clinic accepts donations from businesses and members of the community.

In addition, the clinic has received grants from the Northern Piedmont Community Foundation, the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation, the PATH Foundation, CWF and donations from Orange, Madison, Greene and Culpeper, according to Powers.

The clinic is still rebounding from a COVID-induced shutdown. The PRDC had to close its doors to the public from mid-March through August in 2020. Once it was finally able to re-open, reducing patient intake and operating under COVID mitigation practices resulted in increased expenses with less revenue.

Looking forward, the clinic has set a goal to increase staff to expand appointment availability.

“It is my goal to have every one of these dental chairs filled every day,” says Landry. “The issue is hiring qualified staff, including dentists and hygienists and assistants, and having the money to do that when we’re only reimbursed at 50% over our charges.”

A new full-time dentist starting in April will edge the clinic closer to that initiative. Currently, the clinic is operating with one dentist who works two days a week and two dentists who work one day a week.

“We want to get to the point where we can add enough employees that we can be open longer during the day and possibly on Saturdays,” says Powers. “Right now, we have way more demand than we can meet.”

To volunteer, contribute or for more information visit www.vaprdc.org.


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