Are free clinics cues to a broken system?

Dental clinics across the U.S. offer millions of patients free care annually.

However, Jonathan Shenkin, DDS, told Central Maine that this way of operating may be sound the alarm of a broken system. "Free days of dental care is a warning sign that the state is not providing the resources people need," he said.

Dr. Shenkin is the past president of the Maine Dental Association. He is also the organizer of the Biddeford, Maine-based University of New England's free clinic and saw firsthand the lack of access to care in the state.

In Maine, many employers do not include dental coverage in their insurance plans. Similarly, Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries in Maine do not have access to dental care as part of their basic benefits.

To combat the lack of access to dental care in the state, Maine passed a law in 2014 allowing licensed dental hygienists to perform certain procedures and fill cavities. Previously, only licensed dentists were allowed to perform these services.

In 2010, Maine also approved a $5 million bond to help the University of New England open its school of dentistry. Dr. Shenkin and other dentists are now encouraging the state to consider offering dental coverage in its Maine-Care program.

By giving patients the ability to access preventative services, it may result in fewer emergency room visits and large expenditures.

More articles on dentists:
Tennessee insurer makes 2nd dental HMO acquisition: 3 observations
What can dentists expect in 2019? Dr. Samuel Low explains biggest trends
Former California dentist sentenced to 4 years in prison for illegally practicing, defrauding elderly $400K — 5 insights

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