Two new dental clinics receive funding in Spokane

With $1.6 million in funding from Delta Dental of Washington, $400,000 from the Arcora Foundation, and $2 million in funding from the state’s new capital budget, Providence Health Care and CHAS Health will be able to build two new dental clinics.

The clinics will be built to serve Spokane’s underserved and vulnerable populations, who face a lack of access to healthcare because they are on Medicaid or Medicare.

“Here in Spokane we have a major unmet dental access issue for our Medicaid population and senior Medicare populations,” said Siobhan Danahey, a Strategy and Business Development Consultant with Providence.

She says there are lots of dentists in the community, but few of them accept those two coverage options and the places that do are at capacity.

“There is just no access right now,” she said, “not enough places to go.”

As a result, dental health care gets put on pause, which leads nowhere good.

“The mouth has a lot of bacteria that live in it normally and unfortunately if there is not long term dental care, it can migrate to where its not supposed to be,” said Dr. Dan Getz, Sacred Heart’s Emergency Medical Director.

He says he sees thousands of folks come in each year with painful symptoms and ailments that stem from irregular dental care.

“A lot of the things we tend to see in the emergency room are progressive symptoms related to tooth infections,” he said, “things like a cavity getting carried away, which then can start to cause a pocket of infection and lead to an abscess in the mandible, jaw bone or tooth itself.”

When folks do come into the emergency room with symptoms related to poor dental health, there isn’t much that can be done to help them because they aren’t dentists.

“Often we are performing patchwork care, so its a short term solution,” said Getz.

He says the hospital’s plan to build the dental clinics will be a win all across the board.

The two new clinics will have open 26 new dental chairs and open access to dental care for more than 12,000 individuals.

“Everybody should have access to healthcare,” said Danahey, “you shouldn’t be discriminated against by lack of ability to pay or ability to get treatment or surgeries.”

The plans for the clinics are still in the early stages; no word yet on when they will begin construction or open.

The clinics will be run by dentists and dental residents.