The nonprofit Heritage Health Dental Care clinic aims to provide dental care to local Idaho residents who cannot afford dental insurance, however, a lack of space and resources has meant turning away hundreds of patients a week. Yet, the clinic hopes to lessen that number, as it prepares to move into a larger space and attain more resources, according to The Spokesman-Review..
One clinic's dental plan
Kootenai County - home to the small town of Coeur d'Alene and the Heritage Health Clinic - has an estimated 30,000 residents without dental insurance, according to an estimate by the clinic. About 800 of those seek out care at Heritage every month, looking for everything from basic preventative care to prescriptions for antibiotics. Despite seeing hundreds of patients a week, up to 300 residents are still turned away, and it's not uncommon for appointments to fill up for the day by 8 a.m.
"People will come in with years of buildup and they need a deep cleaning, and we're just booked out," said Justin Rader, D.D.S., clinical director and one of two dentists working at the clinic.
The new move aims to fix that problem. In addition to a larger office, the clinic hopes to acquire a third dentist and a second hygienist, which will in turn allow for a wider array of services.
A nationwide problem
Those estimated 30,000 residents make up just a small percentage of the nationwide citizens with little or no dental insurance. A study by the National Academy for State Health Policy estimated that more than 85 million Americans have no dental coverage. The elderly are especially vulnerable, with almost 70 percent of Americans ages 65 and older lacking coverage. While children will have dental coverage under the Affordable Care Act, many still go without proper dental care, as the Heritage Clinic has found children and elderly alike coming through its doors.
Rader told the Spokesman-Review that the inundation of patients is partly due the recent recession, when people lost their jobs and, by extension, the private dental insurance plans from which a significant number of Americans get their coverage.
The clinic's purpose is not to provide just physical but also financial relief - by raising awareness about basic dental care, uninsured patients can avoid the financially damaging results of an emergency room visit.
Given that clinics like these fill up quickly, people should consider purchasing discount dental plans instead, which can get them the care they need from reputable dentists at a reduced price.
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