Waldo County Dental Care receives $35,000 grant

May 06, 2014

Waldo County Dental Care has received a grant for $35,000 from a Maine-based foundation to purchase dental equipment. The funds will be used to cover the one-time cost of small equipment and routine start-up supplies so the clinic can hire a part-time dentist.

In June of 2013, Waldo County General Hospital launched Waldo County Dental Care, Maine’s first hospital-owned dental “safety net” clinic. The purpose of the clinic is to provide low-income, uninsured adults with access to affordable oral hygiene and dental services.

Before that, many uninsured adults in the community were unable to access critically needed preventative care and treatment. Yet oral health plays an important role in overall health and the chronic pain and disfigurement of oral disease can be a barrier to obtaining and maintaining employment. The clinic thus holds the promise of helping low-income adults achieve both increased wellness and self-sufficiency, according to the grant application.

The development of Waldo County Dental Care was prompted by the following data. According to the grant application, over the past three years, the top reason for visits to the hospital’s Emergency Department among 18 to 49 year olds has been dental pain and infection. Since 2010, 19 percent of all emergency patients—that’s nearly one in every five—came to the hospital seeking relief from acute dental pain. From Jan. 1, 2013 to Nov. 20, 2013, a total of 439 people visited the Emergency Department for that purpose. The Emergency Department providers can assist with short-term pain relief and infection control, but the infection simply returns in time and the cycle continues until the teeth and gums become so badly eroded that the tooth has to be extracted.

Waldo County Dental Care currently has a part-time dental assistant, a part-time hygienist and a voluntary network of five local dentists. Dentists receive a discounted fee when they serve clinic patients and are paid by Waldo County Healthcare. With their generous support, we have begun to address the oral health crisis in our community.

However, it is clear that Waldo County Dental Care needs to dramatically increase access to restorative care. Thus, in June 2014 the clinic is looking to hire a part-time dentist. A portion of that cost will be paid by the low-income patients covered for some types of dental treatment under Medicaid and subsidized by the hospital, which should experience a decreased use of the Emergency Department.

Thus, the grant application stated, the primary barrier to employing the part-time dentist is the one-time cost of small equipment and routine start-up supplies, estimated at nearly $35,000.

In addition to this latest grant, Waldo County Dental Care has received $50,000 from the Doree Taylor Foundation, $10,000 from athenahealth and $7,500 from Bank of America. Waldo County Healthcare Inc. Board of Trustees allocated $100,000 in financial support to be spread over the clinic’s first three years of operation. A total of $53,285 of those funds has been allocated for project year one.

The clinic was also recently honored by the Daniel Hanley Center of Health Leadership with an award for Exceptional Leadership and Service in Health Equity and Health Disparities.

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