CONWAY, SC (WMBF) - Hard times call for desperate measures, even if it means jeopardizing your health to save a few dollars.
It's a widespread problem one professor at Horry-Georgetown Technical College says she sees each week, as area residents are welcomed to the school's low-cost dental hygiene clinic.
The facility is designed as a place for patients to receive dental care that would otherwise be out of financial reach.
"Much access isn't available to many of the patients because it's cost prohibitive," Pamela Moyer said.
Serving an estimated 1,500 to 2,000 patients per year, Moyer says the dental clinic has appealed to those hit the hardest by the recession, senior citizens and people living off of fixed incomes.
"We provide patients with cleaning, examinations, X-rays and sealing," Moyer noted.
Powered by the school's booming dental hygiene and dental assistance programs, some patients travel more than two hours for the cheaper check-ups.
"We've recognized through a lot of the programs we've hosted for our dental hygiene and dental assistant programs from over the years that there's a real need for dental care in [Horry County]," HGTC President Neyle Wilson said.
As demand continues to blossom for the student-driven services, so does the need for an expansion of the school's current dental facilities. Both students and teacher say HGTC's current facilities run on low-key technology and space is limited for both students and patients.
"We have the potential to have 50 dental assistant and dental hygiene students," Moyer said. "[Housing] all of this in lecture and lab clinics is a little tight when we have just 12 dental chairs."
This week, construction crews are expected to break ground on a $7.4 million addition to HGTC's Speir Building, located on its Grand Strand campus to include a state-of-the-art dental clinic, classrooms and labs.
Officials say the multi-million dollar expansion is funded by a penny sales tax in Horry County. The facility will give students a new place to not only practice their skills, but operate the latest technology available in the dental field.
"We're heading in that direction - bringing our students to the 21st century," Moyer said. "In the new clinic, our goal is to have a community clinic so we can ultimately provide those procedures to our patients."
Expected to be completed no later than January 2012, Wilson says the new dental clinic is just one more way HGTC can help those who have found a healthy smile has become few and far between in hard times.
"There are a lot of young people and adults who just can't afford [dental care]," Wilson said.
For more information on HGTC's dental hygiene clinic, call 843-349-5369 to schedule an appointment.
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