Dental health for poor becomes critical

Imagine not being able to get a job because of teeth so bad they scare off employers, or being in constant pain because there isn't enough money to both feed the children and get dental work done.

"Dental health is one of the serious problems of the unserved and the underserved," Friends in Service Helping director Monte Fast said. "People can't get a job because their dental health is so bad."

Dental care is tough enough for people who have insurance.

For those barely making ends meet, it may be nearly impossible.

Carson-Tahoe Hospital Administrator Steve Smith said emergency room doctors are seeing more and more patients who come in with serious dental problems.

"We get patients almost daily in our emergency room who have no dentist, no insurance and their dental health deteriorated so far that they end up in pain or with serious health problems."

Fast is working to set up a dental office at the Carson City charity to help prepare people who might not otherwise be able to afford dental care.

"A lot of people haven't got insurance and when you're living paycheck to paycheck your priorities are to eat, pay the light bill, take care of your kids and suffer," Fast said. "It is difficult for dentists to come to a neutral spot and treat people for free."

Local dentist Randy Wright has stepped forward and indicated an interest in helping out.

"He is interested in donating a half-day at a time, sometimes twice a week, sometimes twice a month," Fast said. "The whole staff is with him on this.

Fast hopes to model a program after Health Access for Washoe County, where a dentist screens candidates based on need and then they are referred to other dentists, who donate their work.

"I think we have some good spirited dentists in town who would be willing to do this," Fast said.

Fast said he already has a dental chair and a pump suction device, but the office still needs an X-ray machine.

"We are quite a few dollars away from putting that chair into operation," he said.

Smith said that should Fast succeed in lining up a dentist, he would be willing to help finish equipping the office and help with supplies.

"This is one of our number one needs in the community as far as the ER physicians and the hospital is concerned," Smith said. "


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