3.8 million Virginians have no dental insurance. Most have nowhere to turn.
Because they can’t afford care, most simply go without. They suffer chronic pain, struggle to swallow or speak, and risk systemic infections and tooth loss. For some, the pain is so severe it interferes with their ability to work, to live a normal life, to smile.
While there are some “safety net” dentists providing care for low-income and uninsured adults, they are inundated with patients. And far too many Virginia communities have no dental safety net at all. In some rural areas, there are as few as one dentist for every 5000+ individuals.
- 66 Virginia localities have no dental safety net provider.
- Although there now are 81 dental safety net sites in Virginia, many only offer care on a part-time basis.
Although the need for dental care for adults is particularly acute, children also face obstacles obtaining care. FAMIS state-sponsored children’s health insurance covers dental care, but Virginia still suffers from a significant shortage of pediatric dentists.
How VHCF is helping
The Virginia Health Care Foundation is working on many levels to help Virginians receive the dental care they need:
Grants: VHCF dental grants totaling more than $11 million have helped establish or expand 46 dental safety net sites statewide — nearly two thirds of all the community-based dental sites state-wide. From providing funding for dental equipment to helping underwrite the salaries of dentists or hygienists, VHCF is committed to bringing dental care to those most in need.
Discounts: VHCF’s partnership with Patterson Dental-Richmond enables providers serving the uninsured to receive a substantial discount on dental equipment and supplies, maintenance and repair and dental practice management software. This partnership has brought $1.4 million in savings to Virginia’s dental safety net.
Clinic Directory: VHCF’s listing of dental safety net locations by-locality is the only comprehensive resource available to help Virginians find local dental safety net providers.
Resources: VHCF’s Dental Opportunities Coordinator (funded by a generous grant from Delta Dental of Virginia) helps Virginia’s dental safety net providers address some of the challenges and concerns related to providing dental care to at risk Virginians. The VHCF website also hosts a wealth of resources for dental safety net providers — from how to start-up a dental clinic to how to handle no-shows.
Best Practices: VHCF’s Tooth Talk Roundtable and Listserv give dental providers an opportunity to share best practices and brainstorm about effective ways to grow and strengthen the dental safety net in Virginia.
Policy: VHCF, in partnership with the Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services, the Virginia Dental Association and Virginia Oral Health Coalition, has effected significant policy change to improve access to dental care for children in Virginia.
Dentures: Through a special arrangement, VHCF is helping to make dentures available to low income, uninsured Virginians in need. These Larell One Step DenturesTM are transforming Virginians’ lives, allowing them to eat, speak, and smile normally. Listen to this NPR story on Larell dentures and discover the difference these dentures are making.
Through these and other programs and initiatives, VHCF is helping address the critical need of providing primary dental care to Virginia’s uninsured and underserved.
“Virginia’s Safety Net — Striving to Meet the Needs of the Uninsured and Underserved,” an article in the fall 2013 Virginia Dental Journal, fully details the challenges and gaps in dental access in Virginia. Written by VHCF’s Dental Opportunities Champion Tracey A. VanMarcke, the article not only describes the current status of access to dental care, or lack thereof, in Virginia, but also gives concise “how to” information for dental providers on how they can help.