Untreated dental problems are responsible for millions of lost school or work hours. Children who frequently miss school or arrive distracted by pain are more likely to drop out before graduating, putting them at higher risk for chronic unemployment and homelessness. Treating someone’s oral health problems can be the breakthrough that turns their life around.
One example from our own community is Tracy. Tracy is smart, personable and hard-working. But her family could never afford dental care, and she had gone without for years. Over time, she lost nearly all her teeth, affecting her appearance and speech. She tried and tried to find work, but couldn’t get past the interview stage. Eventually Tracy became homeless. But her life was transformed when a local non-profit connected Tracy with donated dental care and dentures. Within a week, she was offered a job.
Children and families served by Wallace live in some of our region’s highest need areas. Nearly 95% of our patients have incomes 100% or less of the federal poverty level. Like Tracy, they lack access to crucial dental services. Oregon Health Authority estimates that eleven more dental providers are needed in Rockwood alone. WMC’s new dental clinic will start to fill some of this gap when it opens next month.
At full capacity, WMC’s dental clinic will provide affordable care to more than 3,000 patients. A partnership with OHSU School of Dentistry will place dental students in the clinic, enhancing patient services while training a new generation of dental professionals skilled at serving low-income and homeless patients.
Best of all, oral health care will be fully integrated into WMC’s primary care program. This integration is “the emerging gold standard of care for low-income patients,” says WMC CEO Lisa Cline. “Our model will assure that our dentists work closely with our primary care providers to coordinate on things like immunizations and mammogram reminders.”
Wallace Medical Concern could not open this clinic on our own. We give our sincere thanks to capital and operational support from many supporters, including the Meyer Memorial Trust, M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, Cambia Health Foundation, Collins Foundation, and many others. Together, we’re giving children and families throughout our community a real reason to smile.