By Millie Rothrock


The Bland Ministry Center is expanding its dental operations into Wythe County.

Through funding provided by the Wythe-Bland Foundation, the ministry will open a new dental practice in the lower level of the Brock Hughes Medical Center in Wytheville.

In May, the ministry received $166,000 from the Wythe-Bland Foundation to open a new facility that will address the unmet dental needs of Wythe County’s uninsured and underinsured population.

Travis Jackson, chief executive officer of the Wythe-Bland Foundation said, “Poor oral health is a big problem for seniors and children in our community and all across the country. We are seeing an incredible need for dental services from our seniors, some of whom haven’t seen a dentist in decades, because they simply couldn’t afford it.”

Jackson went on to say that if access for seniors isn’t improved, more will seek emergency room treatment instead of in dental clinics.

He also said that many children had never been to a dentist.

“Oral issues that could have been avoided become worse,” he said. “The Wythe-Bland Foundation is pleased to provide funding to address this issue.”

Susan Keene, the ministry center’s special projects coordinator, proposed the facility’s name – Big Walker Dentistry.

The ministry’s goal is to create a “dental home” for children and adults.

Dee Dee Hoosier, the ministry center’s executive director, said it’s an exciting for the center.

“After 35 years of providing dental care based out of the Bland Dental Clinic, we now have the opportunity to expand services to Wythe County,” she said.

The Bland Dental Clinic started with volunteer dentists providing care to patients on a part-time basis. The dental clinic, via a partnership with the Bland Medical Clinic, now provides care to patients four days per week, Monday-Thursday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Dr. Tonya Parris-Wilkins, dental director for the Bland Ministry Center, will provide care at Big Walker Dentistry in Wytheville. She said the program is well underway. Additional funding has been awarded from the Titmus Foundation in the amount of $5,000. In addition, Mark Umberger of Umberger Contractors, Inc. has started framing the lower level of the Brock Hughes Medical Center.

The new, 2,500-foot facility will include five patient rooms and additional space to support patient care. The facility will operate on a sliding fee scale and accept Medicaid for adults and children.

For more information on Big Walker Dentistry or the Bland Ministry Center, call (276)688-4701.

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