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July 21, 2011

The Caridad Center is Making a Difference

by PBUnitedWay

Health is such a basic need. It impacts every aspect of a person’s daily life – whether it is a neighbor without health insurance, a victim of abuse, or someone struggling with mental illness or an addiction. A child with a toothache is unable to concentrate in school and succeed. A family without health insurance is often overwhelmed to the point of bankruptcy by the financial burdens of an illness. Seniors without prescription assistance have to make frightening decisions on which medicine they can afford and which ones they will go without.

The mission of the Caridad Center is to upgrade the health, education and living standards of under-served children and families. It operates a free medical and dental clinic that provide vital health services to the uninsured, working poor families of Palm Beach County. Executive Director, Barbara Vilaseca, shares how 4 year old Christine now smiles bigger and brighter thanks to the Caridad Center’s dental clinic.

Meet Christine, a four year old patient of our dental clinic. When her mother brought her to us, Christine had more than 10 cavities. She was in pain and would not smile. This beautiful little girl had black teeth. She was terrified of the dental chair and for the first two visits, all she did was cry and scream so the dentists could not touch her. By the third visit, the dentists had made some headway in gaining her confidence and she allowed them to begin treatment. After some fillings, three crowns on her back teeth, and a composite in her front teeth, Christine now has a beautiful smile. The staff also taught her parents about oral hygiene. When Christine’s mother comes to Caridad Center for a medical visit, Christine begs her mom to bring her to the dental clinic area where all the dentists and staff receive big bear hugs. Christine is a happy child. Her parents now know they have to maintain annual check-ups and the dental health of the entire family has improved.

News about how poor dental hygiene negatively affects our overall health is everywhere these days. A recent study by the Pew Foundation assigned Florida the grade of “F” for its efforts (or lack thereof) to provide dental services to low-income populations. Florida ranked 47th in 2007 and 48th in 2008. In fact, tooth decay is the most prevalent chronic disease of childhood. Caridad Center is trying to combat this trend by providing the only full pediatric dental clinic for the children of our county’s working poor families in partnership with Nova Southeastern University’s College of Dental Medicine. Services of Caridad Center’s dental clinic include all the services you would find in a private pediatric dental office: prophylaxis, fluoride treatments, sealants, fillings, extractions, crowns, space maintainers, as well as special complicated procedures.

For more information about the Caridad Center and other Town of Palm Beach United Way member agencies, visit www.palmbeachunitedway.org.

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