Something to Smile About: Free Clinic Takes Bite Out of Dental Access Gap

Wish you could take a bite out of your dental bills? You aren’t alone.

In April, the Kaiser Family Foundation reported that 33 percent of people surveyed skipped dental care or dental checkups because they couldn’t afford them. Approximately 108 million Americans lack dental insurance, more than twice as many as lack medical insurance.

Getting access to affordable dental care is particularly tough for low-income adults and children, and it’s getting tougher as the economy worsens. In fact, a father died from a tooth infection earlier this month because he couldn’t afford his medication. His sad story offers a sobering reminder of the importance of oral health and the number of people without access to dental or health care.

Did you know that roughly 10,000 people in Marion County are without access to dental care, with cost being the primary factor? Now more than ever, health centers are a critical source of affordable oral health services to those with the highest burden of disease and unmet need. The teams at our four dental centers know this first hand, serving more than 5,400 patients a year.

Despite the role health centers play, the need for oral health services remains great and an adequate workforce is critical. An Institute of Medicine report issued this summer urged that the oral health safety net must be broadened and strengthened. Over 2,000 counties or partial counties in the U.S. have been designated dental Health Professions Shortage Areas, where individuals suffer from a lack of dental providers – including parts of Indianapolis.

Thankfully, a lot of like-minded folks in Indy want to change this picture, by improving access to dental care AND training more dental professionals to serve them.

Last Saturday, 28 student volunteers from the IU School of Dentistry (IUSD),
3 IUSD faculty members and 5 staff from People’s Dental Center were on hand for the opening day of the new IU School of Dentistry Student Outreach Clinic at People’s Health & Dental Center.

The free clinic is managed and staffed by students, under the supervision of licensed dental professionals. In just a few short hours, the team treated 12 patients. Procedures included 11 new patient exams, 1 urgent exam, 10 extractions, 4 cleanings and 1 operative procedure.

Stephanie So, chair and organizer of the IUSD Student Outreach Clinic, hopes the partnership is the start of something great for the Near Eastside. The student-run dental clinic, which complements the nearby IU student-run medical clinic, is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the first and third Saturdays of each month, and is currently scheduling appointments for Oct. 1 and 15 for residents living in the People’s neighborhood only.

The clinic is a textbook win-win, providing much-needed dental care for those that need it and invaluable real-life experience that students will carry throughout their careers – hopefully launching a new generation of service-oriented dentists. Thanks to all the students who are volunteering their time and talents for this compassionate, service-minded program!

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One Response to Something to Smile About: Free Clinic Takes Bite Out of Dental Access Gap

  1. Amit December 14, 2013 at 6:30 am #

    My partner and i love, cause I ran across what exactly I’d been looking pertaining to. You could have was over my own four morning long look! The lord Thanks a lot man. Use a awesome morning. Cya

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