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By Mountain Family Health Centers

Starting in April, Dental Director Dr. Garry Millard is embracing the next chapter. After seven years with Mountain Family Health Centers, he’s stepping away from his position as Dental Director and plans to spend more time with his children and grandchildren.

Looking back on his time with Mountain Family, Dr. Millard says guiding the expansion dental services and locations has been tremendously rewarding. After joining the organization in 2011, he oversaw adding five locations: Rifle, the Mobile Dental Van (currently in El Jebel), and SMILES sites at Avon Elementary, Bea Underwood Elementary, and Grand Valley Center for Family Learning.

The SMILES Dental Project is a cutting edge statewide program designed to make it easier for Colorado kids to get dental care, with funding and guidance by the Denver-based grant foundation Caring for Colorado. As a key participant in the program, Mountain Family is part of an innovative push to provide cleanings, fillings, and other services at schools.

Dr. Millard says he will never forget hearing that Crystal Mecham, a Registered Dental Hygienist with Mountain Family, had placed the first ITR dental filling for a school student. It was a first for Colorado, and a real team effort for Mountain Family. That team included, among others, Diana Blanco Flinn, former Dental Clinics Manager and SMILES Dental Project Team Leader, IT Lead Bill Cowden, and Lead Dental Assistant Connie Ruiz. Dr. Millard says their perseverance helped made it possible to create and operate a functioning SMILES Dental Project location, in addition to expert grant writing by development consultant Carolyn Hardin.

Recent data from the SMILES Dental Project program is encouraging: during the first twelve months, the amount of patient visits with untreated tooth decay dropped from 52% to 39%. A 25% reduction is jaw-dropping and surprised Dr. Millard when results were released in March. The update also showed Mountain Family is playing a significant role in the services provided through SMILES: about half of the total 2,328 SMILES Dental Project patient visits statewide were at Mountain Family SMILES locations, and nearly half of the 207 ITRs were placed by Mountain Family Registered Dental Hygienists Crystal Mecham or Cathy Lettice. Upon receiving the latest data, Dr. Millard said, “My congrats to our incredible SMILES team, including Dr. Glass, Luz Sanchez, Crystal Mecham, Connie Ruiz, Cathy Lettice, and Cinia Kiesel. Job well done!”

The Mobile Dental Van is another source of pride for Dr. Millard, who expresses deep gratitude for the Mountain Family staff working “closely,” pun intended, to make the RV-sized clinic a success.

Dr. Millard’s newly adjusted work-life balance still includes work. He’ll be consulting with Mountain Family and Caring for Colorado, plus working for a Glenwood Springs dentist placing implants one day per week. Dr. Millard is looking forward to helping new SMILES Dental Project dentists across Colorado implement the SMILES Dental Project, including how to convince a community to support school-based dentistry and the best way to show local dentists the important partnerships that can develop between SMILES students, local schools, and the local dental community.