U of L School of Dentistry and WKCTC are partnering to bring dental care access to lower-incomed adults in the local area.
Wanting to go to the dentist and needing to go to the dentist are polar opposites. A study by the ADA (American Dental Association) found that 35% of working adults had no plans to see a dentist in the coming year. Reasons are varied, however, cost, location, anxiety, and medicaid access were among the top reasons for not getting the necessary oral health care every person deserves.
The dental clinic program announced in January between The University of Louisville School of Dentistry and WKCTC is moving forward with the announcement of a new director Dr. Gregory S. Lord DMD. Dr. Lord is a graduate of the U of L School of Dentistry, a member of the faculty, and previous owner of the Lord Family Dental in Louisville, Kentucky.
The clinic will be the site for fourth year U of L dental students to practice within our community along with WKCTC dental assistant students using equipment already available at the college. U of L will provide expert oversight of care, supervision and management of dental clinic operations, while establishing fees, billing and collections.
In our region, dental care for those without dental insurance and/or Medicaid recipients is nearly impossible for adults. Children are an exception. There are children’s dentists in the local area that welcome those with Medicaid. Clinics like Colgan’s Pediatric Dentistry located down the road from WKCTC are excellent in caring for the oral health of local children, even those with Medicaid.
Adult dental care for those that don’t have dental insurance or are on Medicaid is a major problem. If you’re a person on Medicaid, most if not all, dental clinics in the purchase area make it very difficult to seek care resulting in patients giving up and doing without. If they do take Medicaid, your name gets placed on a waiting list. The patient is at the mercy of another insured patient’s cancelled appointment. The dental practice won’t give these patients a designated appointment time and if they do, it’s months and months out.
According to a study by the ADA, the top reasons why adults don’t seek dental care are cost and low perceived need regardless of income. For patients that don’t have insurance and aren’t on Medicaid, the out-of-pocket expense could be the difference between putting food on the table and taking care of your teeth. Other reasons for not going to see a dentist include lack of time, difficulty traveling to a dentist, and difficulty finding a dentist that accepts Medicaid.
The 2014 study found that one in five adults don’t seek oral health care because of the cost. One trip to the dentist for a cleaning and x-rays will cost close to $200. During a time when many are without work, especially during COVID-19, an expense this great won’t be a priority. In cases of emergency, by the time a patient has forced themselves to see a dentist due to unbearable pain, the damage could be extensive and the cost could break the bank.
The U of L Dentistry Clinic will be a welcome opportunity for patients caught in this vicious cycle. Hard working people with low wages who don’t qualify for Medicaid and have to pay by cash. Mother’s with children on Medicaid who are unable to secure an appointment with practices that claim to accept Medicaid. Taking care of your dental health is one of those preventative measures that keeps you from getting sick. It’s time for a local dental program to help those without means.
In the same study, it addressed the ‘no need’ for dental care reason for foregoing dental care too. It suggests more education in this area on the benefits of good oral health is a way to position the need to take care of our oral health.
The hiring of Dr. Lord and the new partnership between the two schools is badly needed in our area. Dr. T. Gerard Bradley, dean of the U of L School of Dentistry, said programs like these provide essential care to the community and help meet the curriculum of dental students. Bradley said, “We are pleased to begin our outreach in the Paducah community through the hiring of Dr. Lord. He’s a valuable member of our faculty, and his leadership and clinical expertise will help fulfill our educational mission and partnerships with WKCTS.”