Monday, December 24, 2007

'Filling the gaps' in rural dental care

Dental Care in Kentucky: Trying to Fill the Gaps
(Audio slideshow).

Kentucky is among the worst states nationally in the proportion of low-income residents served by free or subsidized dental clinics, and less than a fourth of the state’s dentists regularly take Medicaid, according to 2005 federal data.

Pain caused by dental problems is a leading cause of missed school days in Kentucky, according to state health officials, and almost half of the state’s children ages 2 to 4 have untreated cavities. About 1 in 10 state residents are missing all their teeth, according to 2004 federal data.

At his private practice, Dr. Edwin Smith -- who also runs a mobile dental clinic -- said that at least once a month he sees a patient who has used Krazy Glue to reattach a broken tooth to the root or to an adjacent tooth. Just as often, he sees patients who have tried to avoid the cost of a dentist by swishing with rubbing alcohol to deal with a tooth infection or by rubbing crushed aspirin pills on gums to numb pain. Both tactics worsen the situation by burning the gums and creating ulcers, he said.