Chatham Offers Affordable Dental Care Through Mobile Service
By: Debra Lawless
A new, affordable preventive dental care program sponsored by the Chatham Health Department will be held on four Thursdays through March in the community center.
“Since we have so many elders and a lot of working people who may not have health care or dental insurance here in Chatham, we saw a need,” says Judith Giorgio, the town’s health agent. “We’re really excited to be able to offer this program.”
The first date is Thursday, Dec. 14, and while a few appointments may still be available, they are going fast, says Andrea Read of Mobile Dental Hygiene Services (MDHS) of Sandwich.
Appointments run from 2 to 7 p.m., but Read and her partner, Teresa Simison, can be flexible.
“We aim to offer quality, affordable care in a convenient location,” Read says.
Patients who have MassHealth Dental Insurance will be covered. For those with no insurance, rates are “affordable,” Simison says.
Services provided are dental cleanings, screenings, sealants, fluoride treatments and denture care. If a patient requires further dental care, the pair will refer the patient to a dentist. They also can provide a list of local community health centers where people can seek restorative care.
“Our patients are always free to see whoever they are comfortable with, if they have restorative needs,” Read says. “However, we work with a few wonderful dentists in the area who accept our patients when we encounter needs beyond our scope of practice.”
You may wonder if you will be treated inside a van. The answer is no.
“All of our equipment is portable, so we are able to set up within a variety of settings,” Read says. “The only requirements are access to a sink and an electrical outlet.” The pair travels with a portable dental chair, a portable dental unit, and a wireless hand piece. “We wear loupes to work, and they have a light,” she adds.
Both Read and Simison have followed educational and career paths that differ from those of many dental hygienists who work solely within a private practice.
Both women are now 36, and they met working in a private dental practice. Their backgrounds speak to how they shaped their traveling dental hygiene practice.
Read is a fourth generation Cape Codder, and she and her husband Ryan are the parents of two sons, Logan and Andrew. After earning her B.S. at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn., she attended Cape Cod Community College (CCCC) to study dental hygiene. After graduation, she worked in a private practice in Sandwich for about 12 years.
Simison, in contrast, grew up in Maryland and Delaware. After graduating from high school in 1999, she joined the Delaware Army National Guard, tended bar for several years, and moved to the Cape in 2005. The Cape was already familiar to her as she had vacationed in Centerville in a cottage her grandfather built. “The Cape was always special to me, so I decided to move here and start a new chapter,” she says.
Things weren’t easy. “When I first moved to the Cape, I barely had enough money to pay rent,” she recalls. She found a job bartending at the Hyannis Yacht Club. She had been neglecting her own oral health, and after breaking a molar by chewing into a Jordan almond, she needed a dentist. Due to her tough financial situation, “I ended up going to the office numerous times to spread out the cost. I think I went four or five times over the course of four or five months,” she says. “During that time I decided I liked the feel of the dental office, and I finally felt like there was something I was interested in pursuing in terms of a career.” Several years after Read, Simison entered the same dental hygiene program at CCCC. One day Simison cleaned the teeth of an elderly veteran in a dementia facility. His oral health was “extremely poor and neglected.”
“I remember getting emotional,” she says. “In the elevator on the way out for the day, I think that’s when I knew I wanted to pursue public health.”
Soon after, Simison met Read in the Sandwich dental practice, and “we soon realized we shared the same interest,” Simison says. Read had already met patients no longer able to access dental care due to financial, transportation and mobility barriers. They decided to enroll together in an online master’s program offered by the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Services.
“How could we make it easier and more affordable for people to receive needed care?” Read said she asked herself. “From there, Mobile Dental Hygiene was born.”
Going to school and working created “a rough few years,” Simison recalls. Yet they persevered, concentrating in public health, “as we had been developing the idea of having a portable practice.” In 2013 Simison married Brendan, a major in the Massachusetts Air National Guard, and they are the parents of an eight-year-old daughter, Hadley.
After that, it took over a year for the pair to develop their partnership, purchase necessary equipment and acquire state licensing. They saw their first patient in Hyannis in April 2017.
As well as Dec. 14, the hygienists will be in Chatham on Jan. 11, Feb. 8 and March 8. For an appointment call 508-827-6725 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information visit www.mobiledentalhygiene.com.