Yesterday morning on my way home from the Downtown YMCA, well before 7:00 a.m., I passed a large group of people massed on the sidewalk and steps in front of the Baylor University College of Dentistry on Gaston Avenue. No doubt these good folks were lined up waiting for the doors to open to the community dental clinic the school operates to benefit low-income patients and the dental students who train there.
Across the years we have referred many people to the Baylor dental clinic. The prices patients pay are considerably below what one might expect to pay in a private dental practice, but often the costs even here remain beyond the reach of many, if not most, of the people with whom we work.
Central Dallas Ministries operates a dental practice. We have two dentists who each work 20 hours each week. We need more volunteer dentists to increase the number of hours our practice is open each week.
Our practice is limited though. We do extractions, simple fillings and routine dental hygiene and education. We can't do more extensive procedures due to cost and limitations of equipment and staff. Still, we try to relieve pain and help low-income patients do the best they can with their dental health and that of their children.
When's the last time you had a tooth ache?
Remember how much fun it was?
I thought of that as I drove past the large group waiting to get into their chosen place of relief.
Most of us don't think about it, but dental care for the poor is almost non-existent in a place like inner city Dallas. Medicaid benefits stop once a person becomes an adult and don't pick up again until retirement age. During that long middle passage of life, without care, teeth have a way of failing and failing terribly.
Just one more thing with which the poor must contend.