The death of a 5-year-old child in Prince George’s County several years ago was the impetus for developing the Children’s Regional Oral Health Consortium(CROC), according to Scott D. Burleson, MBA, FACHE, executive director of UM Shore Medical Center at Chestertown.
“This boy died from dental-related causes and that woke everyone up and led to a movement that gave children and young adults (up to 21 years of age) a whole new opportunity for proper dental health,” Burleson said. “Dental hygiene is such an important part of primary care. With our program dental caries are not allowed to invade the body and be destructive or fatal – we keep the worst from happening.”
Dental disease and lack of access to dental care are two critical health care issues on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. The statistics (see below) bear out the fact that children on the Eastern Shore have the highest percentage of untreated tooth decay in the state (in Maryland overall, children have three times the national average of untreated tooth decay).
Since the program began in earnest in July, 2010, 412 children have had 4,523 teeth worked on during 58,401 minutes (973 hours) in the Medical Center’s Operating Room. In the past year alone (July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016) 68 children have had 627 teeth worked on during 8,590 minutes (143 hours) in the OR.
“This program has been a super-quiet effort that has had a very big impact through the incredible service it provides,” says Maryann M. Ruehrmund, executive director of University of Maryland Chester RiverHealth Foundation. “This is not just cleaning teeth — most procedures can be categorized as ‘major restorative dentistry’.
Two dentists – Dr. Jean Carlson, DDS, PA, who practices general dentistry in Cambridge – and Dr. Maggie McGrath, DMD, MPH – a pediatric specialist dentist from Kent Island – perform the procedures under general anesthesia in Chestertown.
“Taking care of the dental needs for these patients, who range in age from 1 to 21, in the Operating Room makes for a better, less scary, and much less painful experience,” Dr. McGrath said. “These patients can’t be sedated in the office usually because they are so young or because there is so much work to be done.
“The patients and their parents like going to Chestertown. They like the small, community atmosphere there – it is less intimidating to them than a large, urban hospital so they don’t feel so overwhelmed. And the staff is always very friendly – it is always a very positive experience.”
Patients from all over the Eastern Shore are provided transportation to the Chestertown facility via a van that was the first piece of the puzzle for putting this very worthwhile program together.
“The van came from a grant we applied for,” Mr. Burleson explained. “We provide the driver, the gas, maintenance and repairs. All the other pieces of the program were born from this.”
As part of the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS), University of Maryland Shore Regional Health is the principal provider of comprehensive health care services for more than 170,000 residents of Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s, and Talbot counties on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. UM Shore Regional Health’s team of more than 2,500 employees, medical staff, board members, and volunteers works with various community partners to fulfill the organization’s mission of Creating Healthier Communities Together.