The University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Dentistry needs a few good or less good mouths.
School seniors need patients for their clinical exams in March, preferably people who may not have been to the dentist for a while.
The school will organize free screenings for potential patients on Saturday. Anyone chosen to participate will have their teeth worked out next month, also for free.
Over 300 people came forward for testing last year and it’s astonishing that the number has not been 10 times higher. Because when it comes to their teeth, many American adults – elderly and poor in particular – suffer from physical and financial pain.
âPeople without insurance, people in poverty, have to work much harder than anyone else to find a way to get health or dental care,â said Tanya Dorf Brunner, executive director of the nonprofit advocacy group, Oral Health Kansas, in Topeka.
âIt falls on the priority listâ¦ just keeping food on the table and electricity paid for is a much higher priority. “
Many older Americans cannot get proper dental care because Medicare does not cover routine care.
Because they don’t go to the dentist, more than 40 percent of Americans have had mouth pain in the past year, and one in four walks around with untreated cavities, federal data says.
Fear, cost and “the inability to find a suitable place or time to meet” are the Main reasons given by adults for not going to the dentist, according to the American Dental Association. Fifty-nine percent said cost was the main reason.
Connie White, Associate Dean for Clinical Programs at UMKC School of Dentistry, sees these issues firsthand at the school clinic.
Last year, White said, the clinic saw 65,000 patients who paid reduced fees – a third to half the cost of a private dentist, according to the school – for fillings, implants, crowns. and others.
Patients come from across the metro area and on both sides of the state border, as far as Wichita, Kansas and the Ozarks in Missouri, White said. Rural America continues to face an oral health crisis, dubbed one of his “greatest unmet needs” by a government committee in 2018.
The government estimates that about 34 million Americans in rural areas do not have easy access to a dentist, which is why a handful of states, including Missouri, have turned to high-tech services and at a distance from teledentistry.
âI think the majority of our patients are working poor. These are people who are really kind of in the middle, âWhite said. âThey work, but they have jobs that just don’t allow them to have dental insurance, and the cost of dental care is simply beyond their reach.
âThese are people in jobs that don’t provide a high repayment rate, and they just work check for check. Many of them have to save for a while in order to have a procedure taken care of. It is a need in our community.
‘So much pain’
To get lawmakers to sit down and feel the pain of their constituents, Oral Health Kansas is collecting stories of Kansans suffering because of their teeth.
This is a story by an unidentified Kansas City resident, as submitted.
“I had bad teeth all my life, I pulled out 2 wisdom teeth by myself, because I can’t afford to go to the dentist, I tried to get some help, but no one will help me my teeth are falling out one by one i was in so much pain i still hurt i can eat barley i can’t brush my teeth because they hurt me hurt so much, I have constant toothache, most of the time I taste poison in my mouth, I do my best to spit it out …
“I’m afraid my teeth are killing me, I’ve been so depressed I’m not smiling, I’m trying not to talk to anyone.”
This legislative session, Oral Health Kansas is trying to secure a hearing for Senate Bill 349, which he says will go a long way in closing “several gaps” in access to dental care in the state.
The Kansas Oral Health Improvement Act calls for a statewide oral health plan. This Would also increase Medicaid dental reimbursement rates and providing dental benefits to beneficiaries of KanCare, the program that administers Medicaid in Kansas.
âThere are no dental benefits in the Medicare program, and in Kansas, there are no dental benefits for adults in Medicaid,â said Brunner, executive director of the group. “Missouri has an advantage, but Kansas doesn’t.”
But getting dental insurance for Kansans on Medicaid won’t solve the problem of access to dental care “if the rates are too low that dentists are unwilling to provide the services,” Brunner said.
The Star reported last year that less than a third of Kansas dentists take Medicaid because reimbursements are only about 35% of what they charge.
“We try so hard to talk to lawmakers and make the point that people who are in this kind of gap can’t smile, can’t find a job, can’t be healthy if they’re on Medicaid,” Brunner said.
âI spoke to a guy a few years ago who told me he broke his prosthesis and was trying to glue it together but couldn’t keep it glued and he had struggling to eat.
âAnd it turned out that he also had diabetes, which meant he couldn’t eat healthy fruits and vegetables because he couldn’t chew, and that’s just heartbreaking. So we keep trying to tell the stories.
More than a “standard cleaning”
On its website, the US Department of Health and Human Services maintains a list of places Americans can find cheap dental care, suggesting federally funded community health centers and dental schools like the UMKC.
This is the ninth year that UMKC has invited people to be selected to take student exams, White said. Student work will be overseen, as always, by faculty members who are licensed dentists, she said.
Students have already performed the procedures dozens of times during their schooling, according to the UMKC.
The school is looking for patients who need more involved work than a “standard cleaning,” she said.
“It has been a huge success because the patients find out about us, they come in, and even if they are not accepted for the exam, we get them screened for full care and they really start to understand the culture of our school. “said Blanche.
Professors and staff have volunteered to help with the screenings, which begin at 8 a.m. on Saturday at the dental school, located near Children’s Mercy, at 650 E. 25th St. People should call 816-200-7381 to make an appointment, although walk-in visits are also taken.
X-rays are free. If people are chosen to participate, they will return to school between March 26 and 29 for dental treatment, which is also free.
In addition to the screenings on Saturday, dental hygiene students will be hosting free screenings by appointment in March that could allow patients to get a free deep cleansing of their gums.
âI always compare it to driving a car,â White said. âWe can all read a driving manual and take a written test. But you would never consider walking into a driver’s license office and taking a driving test without getting behind the wheel. Because you can’t learn to drive a car unless you’ve driven a car.
âIt is the same in dentistry. You can do any of the preclinical things you want to do to teach someone how to be a dentist. But until they’ve taken on the job of an operator and actually treating patients, that’s how they learn dentistry.
âIt’s invaluable to our students, and we can’t do it without our patients.