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Sinking their teeth into dental work

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Shelly Birkelo
Thursday, September 20, 2012

— Now that money has been raised, new dental equipment ordered and a general contractor hired, renovations to HealthNet of Rock County's Dental Clinic are about to get under way.

"We expect to start in four weeks," said Jean Randles, executive director.

Once work starts, "we anticipate the renovation will take three months to complete," she said.

Renovation costs total more than $44,000. Money was raised through HealthNet's "Pairings That Please" live auction, general contributions and a goat raffle.

HealthNet, which also operates a primary medical clinic downtown, provides free dental care to low-income Rock County residents who don't have dental insurance.

Since opening in 2007, the dental clinic has provided 16,824 procedures to 6,131 patients.

But HealthNet has seen demand for dental care increase at a rate higher than what its volunteer dentists, part-time dental assistant and two dental hygienists can meet.

"We have a waiting list and really want to reduce that for patients," said Randles in explaining the need for renovation. "It will allow us to have a second operatory room so we can serve more patients and be able to attract different and new dental professional volunteers."

With only one operating room, only one dentist can be working at a time, Randles said.

"Ideally, we'd like to have an additional 10 dental professional volunteers," she said.

The number of dental clinic patients at HealthNet peaked from 2008-09, when it served 1,472 people.

"We had to reduce the number of patients the last couple years a bit because of lack of space and volunteers," Randles said.

Although patient numbers have declined, treatment value per patient has increased, she said.

Over the years, dental patients seeking care at the clinic have come primarily from Janesville and Beloit, HealthNet records show.

Initially, oral surgery made up a larger percentage of treatment.

However, as the number of emergency dental procedures has decreased, restorative treatment has increased.

The clinic has been a great value to the other health care providers in the community.

For example, Mercy Health System's Janesville Emergency Room Department has seen a steady decline in the number of patients seeking dental treatment since HealthNet opened its dental clinic.

While the hospital ER saw 521 patients with dental problems in 2007, it only treated 292 in 2010, according to hospital records provided to HealthNet.

Also, the average outpatient cost at the Mercy ER was $725 per patient compared to HealthNet's average of $208, Randles said.

"So it really costs everyone in the community less, if they come to HealthNet," she said.


Last updated: 4:36 pm Tuesday, August 27, 2013

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