There are 3.8 million Virginians who lack dental insurance. In Charlottesville-Albemarle 50% of adults have not had a dental visit in the past two years. There are clear links between dental care and chronic oral infections on one’s health. But the uninsured often put off regular dental visits, because the cost of routine dental care is too great for those who have to decide between paying rent and food for their families. What begins as a cavity worsens to become major tooth decay; and many rely on the local hospital ER to have a tooth extracted. What could have been a minor filling has turned into painful problem and at a larger cost to the community.
Because so many in our community did not have access to primary dental care, there was a wait-list of over 1,000 names long for the uninsured to receive dental care, many of whom turned to the Emergency Room when the blinding pain of a toothache became too much to bear.
So in 2008, IMPACT brought together the Charlottesville Free Clinic, the University of Virginia Health System, and Martha Jefferson Hospital to establish a Free Dental Clinic as part of the Charlottesville Free Clinic. There are now full-time dentists who have served over 6,000 patients since 2008, reducing the wait-list by over two-thirds.