Pain in the Mouth
Bereft of benefits, more seeking specialty care from low-cost dental clinics
At times, Miranda Kelly’s mouth hurt so bad that she would find herself sitting down and crying.
She couldn’t afford the dental care she needed. When it got to be too much, she went to the emergency room at Harborview Medical Center, only to learn that they don’t take charity dental cases.
Kelly eventually got referred to the dental program at Swedish Community Specialty Center (SCSC), which treats only low-income uninsured or underinsured patients.
Swedish opened the dental clinic in January to address the increased need for specialty dental care, like extraction or root canals, for the uninsured and underinsured.
People were coming in to the emergency room at Swedish Medical Center in pain from dental problems, but without dentists or other dental professionals on hand, staff could only treat their problems with medications, antibiotic or painkillers, said Tom Gibbon, external affairs and community cpecialty clinic manager.
Having no real treatment for overwhelming dental issues, “Emergency rooms faced chronic return rates,” he said.
Both Swedish and the University of Washington are bracing for more patients, as state budget cuts threaten dental benefits for pregnant women, the elderly and the disabled.
UW dental clinic lowers fees for needy
To address the increased demand and slashed benefits for the poor, the UW School of Dentistry recently lowered its fees for Medicaid patients. The clinic, which serves some Department of Social and Health Services clients, now offers a discounted fee schedule of up to 85 percent below average dental fees in the Seattle area. The new fees went into effect March 15.
The UW dental school is trying to meet the needs of those who lost their dental coverage at the start of 2011, when the state eliminated most adult dental benefits, said Steve Steinberg, Director of Communications for UW’s dental school.
At the UW dental school the cost of care is lower than it would be in a regular dentist office. For example, the average $100 procedure could cost about $24, said Dr. Dan Chan, associate dean for clinical services.
Patients are seen by third- and fourth-year dental students, who deliver treatment under the close supervision of experienced faculty members, Chan said.
Those seeking this specially discounted care need a valid DSHS ProviderOne card. The UW Community Dental Plan can be reached at 206.616.6996 or at huskydental.org.
The Swedish dental clinic is run in partnership with Project Access Northwest (PANW) and is based on referrals only. It offers specialty dental care to low-income uninsured patients and the underinsured who have Medicaid or Basic Health.
To reach SCSC call PANW at 206. 788.4559 or swedish.org/Swedish/Swedish-Community-Specialty-Clinic. For more on Project Access Northwest, see panw.org.
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