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Commissioners in Monongalia County praise upgrade of the Smile Express

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — With a grant of $500,000, the Monongalia County Health Department will deploy a new mobile dental clinic.

The new vehicle will replace the 2005 retrofitted Winnebago used as Smile Express I since 2018.

Over the years, the program has been supported by area Rotary chapters, the West Virginia Oral Health Program and the Monongalia County Commission. Commissioner Sean Sikora said this program is, in his opinion, one of the most impactful initiatives for the community.

“It really is a big deal, and I’ve said it before,” Sikora said. “That particular program is one that I’m most proud of for this commission to be a part of.”

MCHD Dental Hygienist Tiffany Summerlin has been the top supporter of the Smile Express program and the leading reason the grant was secured. The grant from Aetna will fund the new, custom-built Smile Express II.

During the regular meeting of the Monongalia County Commission, Tiffany’s husband and President of the Rotary Club of Cheat Lake, Jamie Summerlin, explained that this new version of the Smile Express is truly a purpose-built vehicle.

“For a new Smile Express R.V. to be custom built from the ground up,” Summerlin said. “This is actually the way they are supposed to be done, as opposed to retrofitting an RV.”

The Smile Express has operated over a six-county area and started with a 2005 Winnebago funded by a $175,000 grant from the Delta Dental Foundation. The program has been vital to promoting dental health in rural areas of the state.

“I think it’s going to be something that could be a banner opportunity for the county and Monongalia County Health Department to showcase around the country what’s being done, and she’s a tremendous advocate for dental health,” Summerlin said.

During Sikora’s public comment, he continued about how important good dental health or the possibility of a dental intervention for someone in a rural area can be for the rest of their life.

“At ages 7, 8, 9, or 10, you can change the trajectory of an entire life just by helping their appearance; kids are so focused on appearance,” Sikora said.

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