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7/16/03 They entered with toothaches and left with new fillings, re-cemented crowns and, in a couple of cases, one less painful tooth. So it went for a steady stream of patients Tuesday on the first full day of operation for Lompoc/s new mobile dental service for low-income and uninsured residents.

"We/ve seen patients who haven/t had dental work in a long time," said dentist C.L. Adan Jr. "They/re very appreciative."

Operated by Community Health Centers of the Central Coast with more than ,200,000 in grant funds provided by the Lompoc Valley Community Healthcare Organization, the mobile service expects to see Medi-Cal recipients who have been unable to find a private dentist for treatment, working people without dental insurance and people referred by the public health clinic and dental society.

Tuesday/s patients were evenly split between Medi-Cal recipients and those without dental insurance, said Kari Nunes, office manager. Services for the uninsured will be provided on a sliding fee scale based upon income and grant funds will be used to pay for those unable to pay at all.

About 50 percent of those seeking treatment Tuesday were children, Nunes said.

Angelica Kranz, of Lompoc, visited the van for more information about its services and fees and hoped to have a painful molar examined. When asked what she would do if the van wasn/t available, Kranz said, "To tell you the truth, I don/t really know."

Kranz, who is employed full-time but has no dental insurance, said she hasn/t seen a dentist in about a year, and estimates it/s been 10 years since her husband has seen a dentist.

"I think it/s wonderful it/s here," she said.

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The mobile van, located in the back parking lot of the Housing Authority of Santa Barbara County at 917 West Ocean Ave., is scheduled to be open two days a week, primarily Tuesdays and Wednesdays, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Expanded hours will be added when a permanent facility is located for the dental clinic.

For more information about the mobile dental center and its hours, call 929-3254.

Staff writer Carol Benham can be reached at 736-2313, Ext. 105, or by e-mail at cbenham@pulitzer.net

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