ROSELAND — A Far South Side hospital is bringing dental education to young Chicagoans and their parents, including doing work in parts of the South Side that have long lacked access to routine dental care.
Roseland Community Hospital’s Mobile Dental Clinic returned in February after a hiatus during the pandemic. The dental van’s staff are once again providing youth and their families with dental exams, cleanings and goodie bags with toothbrushes and other hygiene items, hospital leaders said.
The mobile clinic’s patients receive six-month checkups, and staff refer patients to local dentists if they need more complex care.
Assistant Director Antwone Belt, a Roseland native who oversees the program, said the clinic improves access to dental care for children and parents in his home neighborhood.
Belt said he had teeth that looked like “the skyscrapers of Chicago” when he was younger, and his peers teased him. But he received dental care in high school that inspired him to pursue health care, and now Roseland’s mobile clinic allows others to pursue proper oral health care.
“The kids can learn proper dental hygiene, the parents can learn some things that they probably never even knew,” Belt said. “[We can] make it comfortable for kids to not be ashamed of how their teeth look because they may have been made fun of in school like I was, and take that and kind of turn a negative into a positive.”
Belt and the team also work with day care workers and parents, teaching them how to instill good teeth care habits in kids so they’ll have better health throughout their lives.
“It’s just like a dream, it’s a dream come true,” Belt said. “Because you actually have a hand in engaging your community, people that know how Roseland was, what we’re doing — having real involvement with these people.”
The Mobile Dental Clinic began in 2013. The hospital was able to start the mobile dental program and secure its signature van with a grant from the Washington Square Health Foundation.
Belt thinks the Mobile Dental Clinic is a long-needed public service for Roseland, which has historically had limited access to equitable health care and information.
“A lot of these things that other neighborhoods or communities may have to see on a regular consistent basis, we weren’t afforded those types of opportunities,” Belt said. “So that’s why the dental program is so integral, because we can go to you.”
With the Mobile Dental Clinic back to operating in Roseland and other communities, Belt hopes he and his colleagues can continue providing services for years to come.
“I just want to continue with that message, year after year,” Belt said. “It’s not about the numbers; it’s about the education. I want to continue with that trend and get people to understand that Roseland Hospital, we really value what we do and we want to help save lives, to promote people in the best way possible, to be the best version of themselves.”
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