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.

  • 67 Virginia localities have no dental safety net provider.
  • Although there now are 96 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 $15 million have helped establish or expand 51 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 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 over $2.5 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.

Dental Safety Net Clinics in Virginia: Click here for an interactive map of Dental Safety Net Clinics in Virginia

Resources: VHCF’s Dental Opportunities Champion (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. To sign-up for the Tooth Talk Listserv or to find out more about Tooth Talk Roundtables, please contact Ally Singer Wright, VHCF’s Dental Opportunities Champion, at 804/525-1486 .

Policy: VHCF, in partnership with the Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services, the Virginia Dental Association and Virginia Health Catalyst, has effected significant policy change to improve access to dental care for children in Virginia.

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 — Progress is Evident, Yet Overwhelming Need Remains in Virginia,” an article in the summer 2019 Virginia Dental Journal, fully details the challenges and gaps in dental access in Virginia.  Written by VHCF’s Dental Opportunities Champion, 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.

Changing Lives

“The day the dental clinic opened was a lifesaver for me.”

I have diverticulitis. Among other things, that means I have to avoid all processed foods and stick to a diet of limited fresh foods. All of them require the ability to chew. My dad was a dentist so I have always been diligent about flossing and brushing. Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough. I developed a cyst […]

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